- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 1, 2001

Impact on hemisphere

The terrorist attacks on the United States have caused economic damage to Latin America and the Caribbean, especially a loss of tourism, Latin American officials said yesterday.

Cesar Gaviria, secretary-general of the Organization of American States, and Enrique Iglesias, president of the Interamerican Development Bank, issued an "urgent call for support" for nations in the Western Hemisphere affected by the September 11 attacks.

They asked the OAS development agency "to establish new mechanisms for special support" to combat economic recession and unemployment in the region.

Mr. Gaviria called for increased security at airports "to revitalize the tourism industry in small countries that have been severely affected by the attacks."

He also urged more attention to banking reforms to stop money laundering "as part of the war against terrorism."

'Deeply disappointed'

From the White House to the U.S. Embassy in Venezuela, American officials are growing angry with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez over his criticism of the war against terrorism.

President Bush "regrets" the latest comments by Mr. Chavez, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Tuesday.

The State Department said the United States is "surprised and deeply disappointed," and the U.S. Embassy in Caracas denounced Mr. Chavez's remarks as "false."

Mr. Chavez angered Washington in a speech on Monday in which he complained about civilian casualties from the U.S. bombing of sites in Afghanistan linked to the ruling Taliban regime, which shelters Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda terrorist base.

He said there is "no justification of any kind" for civilian deaths and compared the bombing campaign to fighting "terror with more terror."

The U.S. Embassy responded in blunt diplomatic language.

"We reject this representation of the coalition's actions in Afghanistan," the embassy said, referring to the multinational coalition against terrorism. "It is false to present the U.S. response to the al Qaeda attack [against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon] as if it were an act of terrorism."

The State Department added, "We are not targeting the people of Afghanistan and have made every effort to avoid any civilian casualties. We deeply regret any such casualties."

This latest spat follows U.S. complaints last week that several Venezuelan government ministers were critical of the war.

U.S. Ambassador Donna Hrinak said the statements damaged Venezuela's international credibility. She was due to meet Foreign Minister Luis Davila yesterday to discuss her remarks.

Bomb threats in Africa

The U.S. and British embassies in Swaziland were evacuated yesterday because of bomb threats that turned out to be false alarms.

Both embassies in the southern African kingdom received the threats about noon from an English-speaking man who said the bombs would explode in "the next few minutes," said U.S. Embassy spokesman Bruce Lohof.

"Sensing danger, we then activated our emergency systems, which included the evacuation of the building," he said.

Swazi police brought in dogs to search for explosives.

British Ambassador David Reader told reporters, "The police thoroughly searched the areas of the building and gave us an all-clear indication for occupants to re-enter the building."

Both embassies have been on a state of high alert since the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States.

Malaysia not risk

The U.S. ambassador to Malaysia yesterday said the Southeast Asian nation is not a high-risk country for terrorist attacks against the United States.

Ambassador Marie Human told reporters that worldwide terrorist alert issued in Washington on Tuesday contained "nothing specific about Malaysia."

"People are very happy with the working environment here," she said of U.S. Embassy staff. "Security is one concern, but this is a worldwide problem and not just Malaysia."

She said embassy security has been increased since the September 11 attacks, but the mission has experienced only a few peaceful protests against the bombing in Afghanistan.

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