- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 31, 2002

Praise for Bush

A visiting delegation from Kuwait yesterday cheered President Bush's State of the Union speech, especially for the inclusion of Iraq in the "axis of evil."

"I was impressed by the speech. It was clear and forceful," said Ahmad Bishara, secretary-general of the National Democratic Movement.

"He identified a leadership role for the U.S. that has been missing for a long time."

The delegation which includes members of parliament, journalists and business executives agreed that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein still presents the greatest threat to Kuwait more than 10 years after he invaded the country.

"He knows he is the next target," said Mohammed Jasem al-Saqer, the delegation leader and chairman of the parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee. "If you are going to fight terrorism, you will have to fight Saddam. He is the biggest terrorist of them all."

Mr. Bush named Iraq, Iran and North Korea as an "axis of evil" that threatens the civilized world.

The Kuwaitis said their visit is designed to show support for the U.S. fight against terrorism, to express sympathy for the victims of September 11 and to show gratitude to the United States for the liberation of Kuwait in 1991.

Unlike its neighbors in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait has no qualms about the U.S. military presence in its country. Recent reports say Saudi Arabia has been privately complaining about American bases in the desert kingdom.

"We depend on U.S. protection against Saddam Hussein," said Faisal Mutawa of the Kuwait Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The delegation has held talks with Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, leading members of Congress and White House officials. Tomorrow the members will travel to New York to visit ground zero.

Ali al-Tarrah, dean of Kuwait University's College of Social Science, cited the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the collapse of communism and the liberation of Kuwait by a U.S.-led worldwide coalition as the three events that have changed the world.

"The whole word was shocked by September 11," Mr. al-Tarrah said. "It marked the beginning of a war against civil society. The war on terror will be a long campaign."

Talks with Jordan's king

Jordan's King Abdullah will appeal to President Bush to reconsider his opinion of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat when the monarch meets the president at the White House tomorrow.

Mr. Bush has expressed his anger with Mr. Arafat for his failure to control terrorism and for Palestinian links to a ship carrying massive amounts of Iranian weapons. Israel intercepted the vessel Jan. 3.

King Abdullah told reporters that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will take up most of the scheduled hourlong meeting, the Jordan Times reported yesterday.

"We are facing one of the region's most difficult stages," King Abdullah said. "The complicated situation that the Palestinian cause finds itself in is at the forefront of these difficulties. This will be the first and most important topic of the discussion [with Mr. Bush]."

King Abdullah said Jordan supports Mr. Arafat and the creation of a Palestinian state.

"We support the creation of a Palestinian state on Palestinian national soil under the legitimate Palestinian leadership represented in the Palestinian National Authority headed by President Yasser Arafat," he said.

Star-struck in Berlin

Staffers at the U.S. Embassy in Berlin were star-struck when actor Tom Cruise spent about an hour signing autographs after meeting U.S. Ambassador Dan Coats last week to complain about Germany's treatment of Scientologists.

Mr. Cruise, one of many Hollywood adherents of the religion founded by a science-fiction writer, urged Mr. Coats to appeal to the German government to recognize the Church of Scientology, the Reuters news agency reported yesterday. Germany considers the church a commercial enterprise and remains suspicious about several of its practices.

An embassy spokesman refused to comment on the substance of the ambassador's conversation with Mr. Cruise, who was in Germany to promote his movie "Vanilla Sky."

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