- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 30, 2002

Israeli envoy arrives

Daniel Ayalon, the new Israeli ambassador, will present his diplomatic credentials to President Bush today and begin preparations for a one-day visit Thursday by Foreign Minister Shimon Peres.

Mr. Ayalon, who arrived in Washington on Sunday, will also visit the State Department to deliver a copy of his credentials to Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, the Israeli Embassy said yesterday.

The ambassador is a former policy adviser to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and former Prime Ministers Ehud Barak and Benjamin Netanyahu.

Mr. Ayalon, 47, is Israel's youngest ambassador to the United States since former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin served here. Mr. Rabin, who was killed by an Israeli assassin in 1995, also was in his 40s when he was appointed ambassador to the United States in 1968.

Joining the club

Just three years after NATO bombs fell on Belgrade, Yugoslavia is ready to take the first tentative steps to link up with the alliance, according to Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Aleksandra Joksimovic.

In town for talks last week with Bush administration officials and private analysts, Mrs. Joksimovic told Washington Times reporter David R. Sands that Yugoslavia is pushing to join the Partnership for Peace, a group of countries that have established formal military links with the 19-nation alliance. As part of the country's efforts to re-integrate with the West after the ouster of former President Slobodan Milosevic, Belgrade is expected to join the Council of Europe in September.

"It's still too soon to talk about Yugoslavia in NATO, but the idea of joining the Partnership for Peace is incredibly popular," Mrs. Joksimovic said.

She said the government of Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic has managed to consolidate democracy in the country, despite the still uneasy status of Kosovo, the battered economy and the fragility of democratic governments throughout the Balkans.

Mrs. Joksimovic said the initial fascination with Mr. Milosevic's trial in the Hague at the International War Crimes Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia has died down considerably. In presentations that received blanket media coverage back home, the former president spiritedly and unapologetically defended his actions in the ethnic conflicts in the Balkans in the 1990s.

"The tribunal was perhaps not very well prepared, and the first images brought a very bad message, but people are losing interest," she said. "It's a soap opera, and like any soap opera, the plot gets old."

"If there was any positive from the early part of the trial, it was that the whole world could see the strong personality and the demagogic power" of Mr. Milosevic, she added.

U.S. protests in Egypt

The U.S. Embassy in Egypt yesterday criticized the conviction of an Egyptian-American human rights activist charged with tarnishing Egypt's image abroad.

"U.S. Charge d'Affaires Gordon Gray expressed his disappointment and concern today at the decision by Egypt's State Security Court to convict Dr. Saad Eddin Ibrahim, an American citizen," the embassy said in a statement.

Mr. Gray was quoted as saying, "On many occasions, we have expressed our concern to the Egyptian government, both here and in Washington, about the implications" of the decision to prosecute Mr. Ibrahim.

Mr. Ibrahim was sentenced to seven years in prison yesterday in a retrial on charges that he tarnished Egypt's image and illegally accepted foreign money for his organization, the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies. Three of his associates were sentenced to up to three years apiece, and 24 other defendants were given suspended sentences.

Mr. Ibrahim was first convicted in May 2001, but an appeals court overturned the conviction and ordered a retrial.

His center openly accepted money from the European Union to monitor Egyptian elections.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch also have criticized the "politically motivated" prosecution of Mr. Ibrahim.

The U.S. Embassy noted that "U.S. officials, members of Congress and the embassy on numerous occasions have raised our strong concerns about the fairness of the process and Dr. Ibrahim's welfare with the Egyptian government."

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