- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 16, 2002

Praising Malaysia

The day after the September 11 terrorist attacks, police in Malaysia ringed the U.S. Embassy to provide extra protection.

"We didn't ask them. They just came," U.S. Ambassador to Malaysia Marie T. Huhtala said yesterday.

That was an indication of things to come. Since then U.S.-Malaysian cooperation in the war on terrorism has been "excellent," she told the country's Internet news service, Malasiakini.

"We have had excellent cooperation on locating and freezing any assets that might be in your banks that belong to terrorists and particularly cooperation with your police in tracking down terrorists," Mrs. Huhtala said.

"This is just invaluable. Malaysia has done a fantastic job."

She noted that the cooperation goes right to the top, where President Bush and Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammed have developed a close relationship.

"President Bush and Prime Minister Mahathir have spoken on the telephone. They have had several exchanges of letters," Mrs. Huhtala said.

"These were good letters. They weren't just formal letters. They were nice, substantive exchanges of views."

Besides counterterrorism, trade is the top U.S. priority in its relations with Malaysia, she added.

"We would like to continue to see trade flows going well and to have a good environment for our businessmen," she said.

Mrs. Huhtala added that Maylasia's human rights record "is always an area of concern" and noted that she will be monitoring the continuing legal case of Anwar Ibrahim, the former deputy prime minister who was convicted of corruption in 1999.

Anwar is appealing his six-year sentence, arguing that the case against him was politically motivated to prevent him from challenging Mr. Mahathir.

Polishing Syria's image

A former U.S. ambassador to Syria thinks he can help improve the country's tense relations with the United States, which considers Syria a nation that harbors terrorists.

Edward Djerejian, ambassador there from 1988 to 1991, believes his think tank can help. Mr. Djerejian is director of the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University in Houston.

The official Syrian news agency, SANA, has reported that Mr. Djerejian offered the institute's services when he met last week with Syrian President Bashar Assad.

He "proposed the contribution of the institute in strengthening the relations between Syria and the United States," SANA reported, without giving further details.

Syria has expressed its condolences over the September 11 attacks but objects to U.S. demands that it shut down the offices of several Palestinian militant groups. Syria considers the groups to be legitimate resistance movements against Israel.

Where's Bandar?

"Mideast-watchers in Washington are speculating hard about the sudden trip of veteran Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar," according to a breathless dispatch yesterday from UPI Hears, United Press International's gossip column.

The ambassador held an "unscheduled meeting" at the White House last week and "flew immediately back to Riyadh," the Saudi capital, UPI said.

The wire service noted that his actions "revived the old rumor" that Prince Bandar, the most senior foreign ambassador in Washington, might be in line for a new position in the Saudi government. The ambassador has been here since 1983.

UPI also added speculation from Israeli sources, who suggested that his "sudden flurry" of activity might mean "that Osama bin Laden is heading home to Saudi Arabia." Those sources believe the Saudi-exiled terrorist escaped from Afghanistan through Iran.

However, some Washingtonians who know the ambassador well dismiss the speculation. Prince Bandar has frequent meetings with White House officials and is constantly traveling between Washington and elsewhere.

While he may be on his way to Riyadh, he apparently is in no hurry.

He has been at his estate in Oxfordshire, England, since leaving Washington last Wednesday.

So, when asking where is Prince Bandar, you might as well ask, "Where's Waldo?"

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