- The Washington Times - Friday, January 4, 2002

Concern in the Horn
Reports of U.S. preparations for anti-terrorism raids in Somalia were met with skepticism yesterday in one part of the Horn of Africa, where officials in Djibouti are keeping a close watch on its southern neighbor.
Roble Olhaye, Djibouti's ambassador to the United States, said his country has seen no evidence that Osama bin Laden's terrorist network, al Qaeda, has training camps in Somalia.
The Washington Times yesterday reported that the Bush administration and its allies have increased aerial-reconnaissance flights over Somalia in preparation for raids against bases that U.S. intelligence has linked to bin Laden.
However, Mr. Olhaye, the second-most senior foreign ambassador in Washington, is confident that President Bush will carefully review all intelligence reports and confirm the presence of al Qaeda cells before authorizing any military action.
"It should make any sane person nervous," he said of a potential military strike. "Let's really get to the bottom of this."
"Whether [al Qaeda] exists in Somalia, we have no idea. We are not sure what is going on there," Mr. Olhaye told Embassy Row. "We are skeptical. I know the U.S. is doing a lot of soul-searching about this. … I know they are doing the right thing to sort the chaff from the wheat."
Mr. Olhaye, the deputy dean of the Washington diplomatic corps, is one of the most experienced ambassadors here. He has studied U.S. administrations since 1988, when he took up his position in Washington.
"We would have no problem if there is a way to tackle the situation, if there is a presence of al Qaeda," he said, adding that "nobody faults our credentials in fighting terrorism."
As the smallest nation in the Horn, Djibouti has a national security interest in trying to restore stability to Somalia, which has been torn apart by feuding warlords. Djibouti has helped Somalia establish a transitional government, which Mr. Olhaye described as a "ray of hope."
"Somalia is poor, deserted," he said. "They have been forgotten."

Afghan leader plans visit
Afghanistan's new pro-Western leader plans to visit Washington to thank the American people for their support, a U.S. official told the Associated Press yesterday.
Hamid Karzai, who took over an interim government two weeks ago, has not set a date for his visit and is still hoping to work out a schedule that is convenient for him to meet Mr. Bush, said the official, who asked not to be identified.
Mr. Karzai's visit would be the first by an Afghan leader in 40 years, although he was a frequent visitor to the United States before assuming the chairmanship of the interim government.
Mr. Karzai plans to use the trip to thank the United States for removing the brutal Taliban regime, which sheltered Osama bin Laden and his terrorist al Qaeda network.
Diplomatic relations between Afghanistan and the United States are proceeding rapidly. The State Department on Wednesday announced the appointment of veteran diplomat Ryan C. Crocker as charge d'affaires of the newly reopened U.S. Embassy in the Afghan capital, Kabul.
The embassy was closed 12 years ago.
The Afghan government is planning to name an ambassador to the United States, its first since the embassy in Washington closed in 1997.
A leading candidate for the ambassadorship is Haroun Amin, the Washington spokesman for the Northern Alliance movement that overthrew the Taliban with strong U.S. military support.

Envoy back at embassy
Chinese Ambassador Yang Jiechi has returned to work at the Chinese Embassy after recovering from heart surgery last month.
Mr. Yang is working several days a week but has not yet resumed a full schedule, embassy spokesman Xie Feng said yesterday.
The ambassador, 51, suffered a minor heart attack and was admitted to George Washington University Hospital on Dec. 12. He was released last week.
Mr. Yang, who arrived in Washington a year ago, is a friend of President Bush's father. Mr. Yang served as a translator for the elder Mr. Bush on a private visit to China in 1977.


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