- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 20, 2001

Israeli high-tech aid

Israeli Ambassador David Ivry remembers when President Lyndon Johnson expressed his admiration for Israeli generals.

Mr. Johnson, whose presidency fell because of the Vietnam War, was upset with his own military leaders and joked with Golda Meir, then Israel's prime minister, about borrowing some of hers.

"To this, Golda responded that he could have some Israeli generals if we could trade them for his. Specifically, General Electric, General Dynamics and General Motors," Mr. Ivry said.

"Things have changed greatly since then. Israel has transcended from the dirt roads of the 1960s to the information super highway of the new millennium."

Mr. Ivry recounted the transformation of Israel from "a land of immigrants into one of the most advanced societies in the world" as he signed an agreement with the World Bank Institute to continue providing Israeli high-tech aid to developing countries.

"Israel is both pleased and honored to assist other nations with the hope that they will follow in our footsteps of development and growth," Mr. Ivry said.

"It is agreements such as these that provide societies with the tools necessary for overcoming ignorance and hate. This of course is the first step toward a future of peace."

Venezuelan democracy

Venezuela is gripped by economic troubles. President Hugo Chavez is losing popularity, and labor and business opponents are growing in strength.

But there is no threat from the military, which is determined to defend democracy, the chief of Venezuela's armed forces said yesterday.

"We are not copying models from any other country. What we have here is a splendid democracy, with the fullest respect for human rights and freedom of speech. The armed forces have defended, and will continue to defend, our democracy," Gen. Lucas Rincon said in a speech at the Inter-American Defense College in Washington.

An opinion poll released yesterday in Venezuela showed that Mr. Chavez' popularity has dropped to 35 percent from a high of 90.

The poll was taken before a Dec. 10 strike against Mr. Chavez' leftist reforms shut down the country.

Adams, Cuba and IRA

The U.S. ambassador to Britain criticized Gerry Adams for a visit to Cuba but said his Sinn Fein political party has been helpful in efforts to bring peace to Northern Ireland.

Ambassador William Farish noted that Mr. Adams' visit to Havana this week followed the arrest in Colombia last summer of Niall Connolly, Sinn Fein's representative in Cuba, along with two suspected members of the Irish Republican Army.

Sinn Fein is the political wing of the IRA.

Colombian authorities have accused all three of assisting the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

"You combine Colombia and September 11 and now the visit to Cuba, it certainly isn't a positive thing," Mr. Farish said Tuesday on a visit to Belfast.

However, he added, Sinn Fein helped advance the Northern Irish peace process by persuading the IRA to begin disarming.

"We are looking at the big picture," Mr. Farish said. "We are moving forward, and I think there have been things Sinn Fein have done in the near recent time that have been very positive, and that is what we are after."

Diplomacy in Berlin

The United States has been quietly modifying plans for its new embassy in Berlin. City authorities have opposed a grand design that would have rerouted a street and cut into an historic park, according to German media reports.

Daniel Coats, the U.S. ambassador to Germany, told a radio station that the United States and Berlin are close to an agreement that will allow construction to begin at the embassy site in front of the Brandenburg Gate in the center of the capital.

"We are at the point where we are hopefully able to present a memorandum of agreement to the Berlin city government and get their approval," he said Tuesday in an InfoRadio station interview.

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell has reportedly agreed to a narrower security zone around the new embassy that will prevent the need to reroute traffic on Pariser Platz and cut into the Tiergarten park.

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