- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 11, 2001

Realistic about Cyprus

Cypriot Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides said he sees signs the new U.S. administration is not planning to pull back on efforts to help end the dispute that has divided the island's Greek and Turkish communities for more than a quarter-century.

Mr. Kasoulides, in town this week for talks with Secretary of State Colin Powell, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and other senior administration officials, told our State Department correspondent David R. Sands that Mr. Powell has now met with the foreign ministers of Greece, Turkey and Cyprus even before the administration had reached the 100-day milestone.

"We are realistic about the U.S. role because we know what Turkey means to the United States because of its geostrategic position," Mr. Kasoulides said.

U.N.-sponsored talks between the Cypriot government and a Turkish-backed state on the northern part of the island broke down in December, when Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash pulled out of the discussions.

Mr. Kasoulides said he thought a possible European Union vote to admit Cyprus late next year could provide "positive leverage" for a settlement between the two communities. Their dispute has also sparked continuing tensions between NATO allies Turkey and Greece.

"I think deadlines do sometimes have merit," he said.

But the foreign minister also said Cyprus' EU application should go forward even if the island remains divided.

On a separate front, Mr. Kasoulides said his government had provided about 25 boxes of evidence to the international tribunal in The Hague investigating war-crimes charges against former Yugoslavian strongman Slobodan Milosevic and other top regime officials.

Financial officials of the Milosevic regime have said that Cyprus' large international banking sector was a prime conduit for an estimated $1 billion in illegal funds transferred abroad under Mr. Milosevic before he was ousted late last year.

Mr. Kasoulides said he did not know in detail what the boxes held, but said: "We do not believe we have anything to hide as far as the government of Cyprus is concerned."

Interfering in Vietnam?

The U.S. ambassador to Vietnam yesterday expressed his condolences to the families of the Vietnamese soldiers killed in a helicopter crash, as they searched for American troops missing from the Vietnam War.

All he got in return for his display of sympathy were complaints from Vietnamese officials about the United States granting asylum to Vietnamese Christians fleeing persecution in the central highlands.

Ambassador Douglas Peterson led a U.S. delegation at a funeral for eight of the nine Vietnamese soldiers killed in the crash Saturday. Seven Americans died in the accident.

"It is with great sorrow that I am here," Mr. Peterson said. "We deeply share the loss of our Vietnamese friends who perished."

The Vietnamese Foreign Ministry denounced the United States for "interference in Vietnam's internal affairs" for granting asylum to 24 refugees who fled to neighboring Cambodia. The U.S. Embassy there said they will be resettled in the United States.

Kent Wiedemann, the U.S. ambassador to Cambodia, dismissed the Vietnamese complaints.

"It's a humanitarian issue, not interfering in Vietnam's affairs," he told the Reuters news agency.

"These people came into Cambodia, and we interviewed them based on the claim that there was a good chance they would face persecution if they returned."

Travel warnings

The State Department is warning Americans to be extremely cautious when traveling to Fiji and Malaysia.

Fiji is still politically unstable from a coup last year, while Malaysia has been targeted by a Philippines-based terrorist group.

"U.S. citizens are advised to exercise caution, keep a low profile, avoid large gatherings and potential demonstration sites" in Fiji, the department said.

Americans traveling in the Malaysian state of Sabah "should be aware of the persistence of threats from the Abu Sayyaf group," it added in warnings released Monday.

U.S. citizens should register with the American embassies in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia or in Suva in Fiji after they arrive in those countries.

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