- The Washington Times - Friday, November 3, 2000

More land for peace

Egyptian Ambassador Nabil Fahmy yesterday called on Israel to give up land it gained in the 1967 war and share Jerusalem with a new Palestinian state.

"I will say openly, peace in the Middle East means a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, and the West Bank includes East Jerusalem. It also means that Israel will be recognized and allowed to live in secure borders within the parameters of June 1967," he said at a luncheon at the Federal City Club.

Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its capital.

Mr. Fahmy also criticized Israel for an "excessive use of force" against Palestinian rioters and blamed Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon for sparking the 5-week-old cycle of violence with his visit to a sensitive Jerusalem shrine.

Palestinians denounce Israeli soldiers for firing on protesters that they say are armed only with stones. Israel says many of the rioters are armed and have been shooting at Israeli soldiers.

Three soldiers were killed Wednesday and two Israeli citizens died in a car-bomb explosion yesterday, raising the death toll to 165. Most of the victims are Palestinians.

Mr. Fahmy said the violence must end before Israelis and Palestinians can resume peace talks.

"For the sake of being completely honest, there is no way one can justify the excessive use of force that has been used against the Palestinian people," he said. "The fact that some Palestinians have thrown stones is evident, of course. They've been resisting occupation."

Mr. Fahmy said Mr. Sharon's visit alone did not cause the violence.

"But the occupation and the frustration that had been built up over many, many years and the delay in the peace process provided the fertile environment for Ariel Sharon to throw a match into it, and then you have what you've had since then," he said.

Mr. Fahmy said Israelis must make more concessions than they did at the Camp David talks.

"It's very difficult to go back to our own communities and tell them, 'Well, peace is possible.' But it's not a convincing argument any more to simply go there and tell them, 'Be patient,' " he said.

Sealing the past

President Clinton's visit to Vietnam later this month will "seal the past" and underscore U.S. confidence in the future of its former Southeast Asian enemy, according to the U.S. ambassador to Vietnam.

"I think it's really one of the most significant events that will happen in the relations between the United States and Vietnam for a long time," Ambassador Douglas "Pete" Peterson told the Agence France-Presse news agency this week.

"It certainly will seal the past in my view and will establish the base from which we can launch new programs in the future.

"If you look around, this is a stable country. You look at Asia right now and everywhere you look there are problems. I don't hear anyone reporting problems here. Vietnam by any standard has to be rated a success," Mr. Peterson added.

A major study of economic freedom released this week by the Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal challenges Mr. Peterson's upbeat assessment of Vietnam.

The 2001 Index of Economic Freedom ranks Vietnam 144th out of 155 economies surveyed and gives the economy its lowest rating of "repressed."

The "bulk of the economy is still centrally planned and dominated by state-owned enterprises propped up by subsidized loans from government-owned banks," the report said.

Vietnam is also "experiencing an exodus of foreign investors" and suffering from "stagnant growth," it said.

Embassy still closed

The U.S. Embassy in Indonesia will remained closed to the public until early next week, as tensions continued to rise between Washington and the world's most populous Muslim nation.

The embassy cited a "credible threat" last week when it first shut its doors to visitors seeking visas, passports or other public services.

"American citizens in Indonesia are once again urged to use caution in regards to their personal security. They should avoid areas of instability and potentially dangerous situations," the embassy said in a statement.

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