- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 20, 2001

Intolerance denounced

Egyptian Ambassador Nabil Fahmy yesterday denounced anti-Semitic reports in Egypt's government-owned press but said Arabs are also sometimes the targets of biased reporting in the Israeli media.

"We do not condone or accept any sort of intolerant reference to anybody of any faith," he told Embassy Row. "Whether it happens in our press or whether it happens in the Israeli press, it is something that is annoying to us."

Mr. Fahmy was responding to questions about a letter from the Simon Wiesenthal Center, urging him to condemn what it called anti-Semitic and racist reports in the newspaper, Al-Akhbar, on Secretary of State Colin Powell's visit to the Middle East.

While not commenting directly on the letter, Mr. Fahmy said the reports do not reflect official policy, even though the newspaper is owned by the government and President Hosni Mubarak appoints its editor. The ambassador said his government does not censor the newspaper, which is often critical of the regime.

"It is not a government mouthpiece," he said. "The comments are those of the journalists themselves."

Mr. Fahmy also questioned the accuracy of the excerpts contained in the letter written by Rabbi Marvin Hier, the head of the center.

Mr. Hier asked the ambassador "to condemn [the remarks] and take measures to prevent them from occurring again."

He said the article contained "outrageous and indefensible" comments that belittled Judaism, denied the Holocaust and questioned Mr. Powell's race.

He quoted Al-Akhbar's Feb. 27 edition that said, "The American secretary of state did not hesitate to demonstrate humiliation and submission when he recently visited Israel. He stood humble, a Jewish yarmulke on his head, in front of the memorial of the false Holocaust of the Jews."

The article also said Mr. Powell, the United States' first black secretary of state, "shed his skin, tore himself from his roots and today represents only himself and has no connection to the black American community, which led the revolution for democracy, equality and human rights in the world."

Mr. Hier, in his letter, said those comments reminded him of Nazi propaganda.

"Egypt has always prided itself in honoring its peace treaty with Israel," Mr. Hier said. "But, Mr. Ambassador, these kind of attacks … are not conducive to peace but to hatred."

Appeal for Cubans

Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart has appealed to the U.S. ambassador in Ghana to help a Cuban refugee family hiding in the West African nation.

The Florida Republican asked Ambassador Kathryn Dee Robinson for her "urgent assistance" for Dr. Rene Vicente Acosta Trujillo, his wife and their two children, who have been interviewed by a representative of the U.N. High Commission for Refugees as a first step in their quest for political asylum.

"I ask that you intervene to assure that their case is carefully evaluated and that all possible steps are taken to protect this family," he said.

The medical doctor was assigned to South Africa and then to Ghana, where he took his family into hiding "for fear that Cuban agents may forcefully return them to Cuba," Mr. Diaz-Balart said.

"Cuban professionals who defect are considered traitors by the Castro regime and are subjected to incarceration and other severe reprisals" if they are returned to Cuba, he said.

"Understandably, Dr. Acosta is greatly concerned for the safety and well-being of his family," the congressmen added.

Abuse of rights denied

The president of Equatorial Guinea yesterday insisted his government respects human rights and rejected a State Department human rights report that accused the West African nation of torture and press censorship.

"There is no abuse with respect to human rights," Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, on a Washington visit, told the Freedom Forum.

"The press is free. There are no restrictions on the press."

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