- The Washington Times - Friday, August 31, 2001

Sri Lanka warning
The U.S. ambassador to Sri Lanka yesterday promised to review a month-old travel warning that urged Americans to stay away from the dangerous and politically unstable island nation.
"The safety of our citizens is my main concern, and Sri Lanka at this point does worry me," Ambassador Ashley Wills said at a public seminar.
"In two to three weeks' time we will look at the travel warning."
The State Department's July 24 travel alert urged Americans to avoid unnecessary visits to Sri Lanka because of rebel attacks and political unrest. The Sri Lankan government is worried about the loss of tourism, which could fall by 50 percent, according to tourist board estimates.
The warning followed an attack by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam on the airport in the capital, Colombo.
The rebels killed several soldiers, wounded airport employees and destroyed military and civilian planes. Many airport passengers were caught in the crossfire between rebels and government troops but were not injured.
"The attack demonstrates the ability and willingness to select targets without regard for the safety of civilians, including tourists," the travel warning said.
"American citizens should also be aware that Sri Lanka may be entering a period of increased civil unrest and mass political demonstrations. On July 10, the president of Sri Lanka suspended parliament. In protest of the suspension, opposition parties have mounted a campaign of civil unrest."
Mr. Wills last week attempted to intervene in the political dispute by offering to mediate between the government and the opposition. Both sides have publicly rejected his offer.

No word from Hanoi
Given a chance to comment on the nomination of a new U.S. ambassador to Vietnam, Hanoi yesterday took a diplomatic detour.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Phan Thuy Thanh told reporters the obvious when asked about the nomination of Raymond Burghardt to replace Douglas "Pete" Peterson, the first U.S. ambassador to Vietnam since the Vietnam War.
She said the appointment of a U.S. ambassador is important to the future of U.S.-Vietnamese relations but declined to comment on Mr. Burghardt until his appointment is confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
Mr. Burghardt, a career diplomat, is currently the U.S. envoy in Taiwan, where he is director of the American Institute in Taiwan.
"The nomination of a new ambassador is an important issue in our bilateral relations and we hope that the U.S. president and Congress will choose someone who can speed up the rapprochement between Vietnam and the United States," the spokeswoman said.

Money for Mozambique
The U.S. ambassador to Mozambique this week signed an agreement to provide $40.5 million in U.S. assistance for agriculture, job training and anti-AIDS programs.
Ambassador Sharon P. Wilkinson and Mozambican Foreign Minister Leonardo Simao signed the agreement on Wednesday, the state-owned newspaper Noticias reported yesterday.
The assistance will also help promote the maintenance of country roads and other rural projects, the paper said.
The money to combat AIDS is one of Mozambique's most pressing needs. The virus has infected about 16 percent of the southern African nation of 16 million people. About 700 new cases are reported daily.

Embassies closed
The U.S. embassies in Romania and Bulgaria were closed yesterday for security reasons, the State Department said.
Spokesman Richard Boucher provided no further details about any specific threat or when the embassies would reopen.
Mr. Boucher referred to a June 22 "worldwide caution" under which diplomatic missions "may temporarily suspend operations or close to the public in response to threat information, security concerns or simply to review their security postures."
"And that's what we've done in this case," he said.


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