- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 17, 2002

Egypt blames Israel

The Egyptian Embassy is making sure Washington knows that Egypt blames Israel for its decision to cancel a lavish celebration for the reopening of the Alexandria Library 1,600 years after the destruction of one of the wonders of the ancient world.

The Egyptian government believed the ceremony planned for April 23 would have been inappropriate given the violence in the West Bank, said embassy spokesman Hesham Nakib.

"The decision comes as an expression of rejection of Israeli acts of aggression against the Palestinian people, in response to the patriotic feelings of the Egyptian people and as a sign of solidarity with the Palestinian people," he said in a statement to news organizations this week. "It also comes as homage to Palestinians who fell in defense of their land at the hands of Israeli aggression."

He said Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak sent letters of apology to kings, heads of state and other prominent international guests.

"President Mubarak expressed his sorrow for the disgraceful agonizing tragedies Israel has caused the region and the world, which have shaken human conscience worldwide and created unfavorable climate for the celebration," Mr. Nakib said.

An Israeli Embassy spokesman was not aware that Egypt was blaming Israel for the ceremony's cancellation.

"What has that got to do with us?" he asked.

The ancient library at Alexandria, Egypt, contained more than 700,000 manuscripts. The library was completed in 290 B.C. and destroyed by fire in A.D. 391.

The new library cost more than $65 million, stands 11 stories and has 430,000 square feet of floor space.

Diplomat enters politics

Mehmet Ali Bayar has resigned his position as a first secretary at the Turkish Embassy to return home to seek the leadership of the center-right Democratic Turkey Party.

Mr. Bayar is backed by former Interior Minister Ismet Sezgin, the head of the party, and former President Suleyman Demirel, who reportedly recommended him for the leadership post. The party's annual convention is May 18.

Lithuanian roadshow

Lithuanian Ambassador Vygaudas Usackas is on the road to promote his country's goal of joining NATO.

He is traveling this week in Oklahoma and Missouri, where he is addressing foreign-policy audiences on the benefits of expanding the alliance to include the Baltic countries in northern Europe and Black Sea countries in the south.

"Comprehensive enlargement to northern, southern and central Europe will strengthen the alliance and provide it with new capabilities," he told the Council on Foreign Relations of Tulsa, Okla., and the Institute of Foreign Affairs of the University of Tulsa on Monday.

He also said the ambassadors of the countries seeking NATO membership will meet with the House International Affairs European subcommittee on May 1.

Meeting in Papua

Ralph Boyce, the U.S. ambassador to Indonesia, met this week with separatist leaders in Papua province but discouraged them from seeking independence.

Mr. Boyce talked with members of the Papua Presidium in a private meeting in a restaurant in the provincial capital of Jayapura, a U.S. Embassy spokesman told Agence France-Presse.

The United States supports new autonomy provisions granted by the Indonesian government, which opposes independence for the province formerly known as Irian Jaya on the western part of the island of New Guinea.

"We expressed support for the special autonomy law as a constructive way for the populace to address their grievances and to regain control over their own wealth and freedom," the spokesman said.

Mr. Boyce met with Thaha Al Hamid, secretary-general of the Presidium, and two other leaders, the Rev. Herman Awom and Willy Mandowen. The group supports a peaceful transition to independence and rejects the violent methods of the rebel Free Papua Movement.

Indonesia has ruled Papua since the departure of Dutch colonizers in 1963.

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