- The Washington Times - Friday, June 7, 2002

Terrorist not a Kuwaiti

Kuwaiti Ambassador Salem Abdullah Sabah is getting tired of repeating himself, as he tries to set the record straight about the nationality of one of the suspected masterminds of the September 11 attacks.

Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was identified earlier this week as a Kuwaiti in an Associated Press report, carried in The Washington Times and The Washington Post, and on several newscasts.

However, while he was born in Kuwait, he is not a citizen of the country. Kuwait does not recognize citizenship as a birthright. No one has identified the citizenship of the man on the list of the FBI's most-wanted terrorists.

"Again, let me repeat what is already on the record," Mr. Sabah said Wednesday. "This man is not a Kuwaiti citizen. When his name first came to light, my government informed U.S. officials that he wasn't a Kuwaiti, and I've been shocked to see him referred to as a Kuwaiti in the papers."

Shafeeq Ghabra, director of the Kuwait Information Office, said yesterday the Kuwaiti Embassy received dozens of telephone calls after the terrorist was identified.

"They said this disparaged the good name of Kuwait and damaged our relations with the United States," said Mr. Ghabra, who added that Kuwaitis will never forget the United States liberated them from Iraqi occupation.

The ambassador reiterated his country's allegiance to the United States in its war on terrorism.

"The attacks against America on September 11 were attacks on us all," he said. "Kuwait is firm in its opposition to terrorism and in its support for U.S. efforts to rid the world of this deadly scourge.

"The Kuwait-U.S. relationship is strong and deep. As our foreign minister said just days after the attacks, 'America is Kuwait's ally, and we in Kuwait do not forget our ally.'"

Slovak contribution

Slovak military engineers will be among the first forces from one of the nine NATO candidate countries to be deployed in the U.S.-led Enduring Freedom mission in Afghanistan, Slovakian Defense Minister Jozef Stank said during a quick Washington visit yesterday.

The Slovak Cabinet authorized the deployment earlier this week, Mr. Stank told Washington Times reporter David R. Sands. Slovakia's parliament still must approve the mission, but Mr. Stank expressed confidence the engineers, whose primary mission will be the repair of airfields and landing strips, will be in place before the November NATO summit in Prague.

Anxious to sustain momentum for Slovakia's NATO bid, Mr. Stank said he will tell his U.S. counterparts that his country's military budget will rise to 2 percent of the gross domestic product next year from 1.89 percent now.

Mr. Stank will join Slovak President Rudolf Schuster and Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan for a meeting with President Bush this morning.

Mr. Stank acknowledged that the biggest threat to Slovakia's NATO hopes isn't military but political. Nationalist former Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar threatens a political comeback in the September parliamentary elections that U.S. and Western leaders say would torpedo Slovakia's NATO hopes.

While Mr. Meciar enjoys a core support of about 30 percent of the electorate, Mr. Stank said the majority firmly rejected his policies.

"In Slovakia, 70 percent is still more than 30 percent," he said, "and 70 percent of our people truly wish to have a different kind of government. I am confident that will be manifested in September."

Worried in Hong Kong

The top U.S. diplomat in Hong Kong yesterday urged the government to protect its autonomy against encroachment from mainland China.

U.S. Consul-General Michael Klosson said in a speech that he was concerned that the communist government in Beijing overturned a decision by Hong Kong's top court on limiting immigration from China.

"One can only wonder how international perceptions of the autonomy and independence of Hong Kong's legal system would be affected if this mechanism were to be invoked a second time," he told the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong.

Mr. Klosson also said he is worried that a subversion and sedition law being considered by the Hong Kong legislature could stifle criticism of the Chinese government.

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