- The Washington Times - Friday, June 23, 2000

Threat in Jordan

The U.S. Embassy in Jordan is under a terrorist threat, the State Department said yesterday.

Spokesman Philip T. Reeker said Washington is warning all Americans living in or traveling to Jordan "to exercise prudence and review their security practices and to remain alert to changing situations."

He declined to give details of the security alert, but expressed confidence in Jordanian authorities to deal with the threat.

"I am not able to get into details about the nature of the threat or other details, except to say that we're taking this threat very seriously in light of what happened in December," he said.

Jordan arrested 16 suspected terrorists believed to be linked to Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden. They are accused of planning attacks on American targets on New Year's Eve to disrupt year-2000 celebrations. Their trial began last week.

Bin Laden, who is based in Afghanistan, is wanted by the United States.

The United States has accused bin Laden of masterminding the 1998 attacks on the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed more than 200 people.

"The U.S. government has information concerning terrorist targeting of the United States Embassy in Amman, Jordan," Mr. Reeker told reporters at yesterday's news briefing.

"While the United States has full confidence in the government of Jordan's demonstrated ability and willingness to address security threats, the full dimensions of this threat are not known at this time.

"And while current information indicates that the U.S. Embassy is targeted, we cannot rule out the possibility that terrorists may also plan to target other venues in Jordan."

In the Jordanian capital, Amman, the embassy alerted its network of American volunteers who passed on security warnings to other Americans. About 1,000 U.S. citizens live in Jordan.

"American citizens should avoid large crowds [and] keep a low profile," the message said.

Belarus democrats

Two leaders of a congressional human rights panel are urging Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright to meet with Belarussian democrats at an international forum on democracy next week.

Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, Colorado Republican, and Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, told Mrs. Albright that talks with the Belarussian opposition leaders would be especially symbolic because the Community of Democracies forum will be held in Warsaw, where Solidarity trade unionists helped bring down communism in the 1980s.

Anatol Lebedka, head of Belarus' United Civic Party, and other opposition leaders are taking a risk by attending the forum because Belarus is heading toward a dictatorship under President Alexander Lukashenko, said the senators, who serve on the congressional Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe.

"Given the deterioration of human rights in Belarus, and in particular, repressive measures against the opposition, support for democratic forces in Belarus is more pressing than ever," the senators wrote.

"The Belarus opposition deserves both our moral and material support as they seek to overcome the legacy of communism and authoritarianism and build a democratic society firmly rooted in the rule of law. Your meeting with these courageous individuals would send a clear signal of U.S. commitment to the beleaguered democratic forces in Belarus.

"We remain very concerned about the personal safety of Mr. Lebedka and other Belarussian opposition leaders. Belarus, under Lukashenko, has abandoned the democratic path and slipped toward dictatorship."

A State Department spokesman said Mrs. Albright has not seen the letter, which arrived Monday, on the day she left for a meeting in China. She is traveling on to Warsaw, he said.

However, Mrs. Albright last month authorized a strong warning to Mr. Lukashenko after Belarussian opposition leaders visited Washington.

"Any retribution against these individuals because of their meetings in Washington would be a serious mistake," spokesman Philip T. Reeker said at the time.

On that visit, Mr. Lebedka and other Belarussian democrats met "senior officials" at the State Department and National Security Council, Mr. Reeker said.

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