- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 23, 2002

India, Pakistan travel
American diplomats and other government employees ordered out of India last month may return because tensions between India and Pakistan have eased, the State Department said yesterday.
However, the department continued to warn Americans to avoid Pakistan because of terrorist threats after the convictions of four Islamic extremists for the murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.
The U.S. Embassy in New Delhi issued the department statement lifting the travel ban, while adding that Americans still should be cautious if they visit India or return to their government positions.
"Tensions have subsided between India and Pakistan, although the risk of renewed increased tensions cannot be ruled out," the statement said.
Those "who departed in early June under the authorized departure may return to India," it added. The embassy and the three U.S. consulates in India "are expected to operate at normal staffing levels in the near future," the statement said.
The State Department warned Americans to avoid travel to border areas, where India and Pakistan still have 1 million troops stationed. Terrorist groups continue to operate in the disputed Kashmir province, the statement said.
Although the military tension has decreased between the two nuclear rivals, the terrorist threat against Americans remains high in Pakistan because of the convictions last week of Ahmed Omar Saeed and three others for killing Mr. Pearl. Saeed was sentenced to death, but predicted that the trial judge might be killed before his execution.
The State Department in March ordered the departure of American government employees who were not essential to the daily operation of the U.S. mission in Pakistan.
"In light of the convictions and sentencing of four men charged with the kidnapping and murder of an American reporter and the ongoing concern for further terrorist actions against American citizens, the Department of State again reiterates its warning to American citizens to defer travel to Pakistan and strongly urges American citizens in the country to depart," the department said in a statement issued Friday.
Pakistanis not target
Attorney General John Ashcroft has assured Pakistani Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi that the United States is not targeting Pakistani immigrants for deportation, the Pakistani Embassy said.
More than 400 Pakistanis have been deported recently for overstaying their visas or for other immigration violations.
Miss Lodhi met with Mr. Ashcroft on Friday as part of a series of visits with U.S. officials to bid them farewell. Miss Lodhi is planning to return to Pakistan after serving two terms as ambassador here.
"During the meeting, the ambassador raised the issue of Pakistani detainees [and] the attorney general assured her that Pakistani nationals were not being singled out while enforcing U.S. immigration policies after September 11," the embassy said in a statement.
Mr. Ashcroft promised Miss Lodhi that the United States will cooperate with the Pakistani government in future deportations of Pakistani detainees on immigration matters.
He guaranteed "consular access and legal representations to Pakistani detainees, as well as making arrangements for the speedy, dignified and honorable repatriation of those detainees who had been ordered to be repatriated by U.S. courts after following the due legal process," the embassy said.
Protecting Cyprus' past
The ambassador from Cyprus is hailing an agreement with the United States that will combat the smuggling of ancient Cypriot artifacts.
"This is a significant step toward stopping those who seek to steal from Cyprus a part of its cultural heritage," said Ambassador Erato Kozakou Marcoullis.
The agreement signed last week by Mrs. Kozakou Marcoullis and B. Lynn Pascoe, deputy assistant secretary of state for European affairs, will require U.S. antique dealers to obtain certificates from the Cypriot government before importing protected ancient items.
Mrs. Kozakou Marcoullis thanked the United States "for recognizing the importance of protecting these antiquities, so that not just Cyprus but the entire world can enjoy the rich history of the island."


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