- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 14, 2002

Israel willing to listen

Israeli Ambassador David Ivry says Israel is willing to listen to an American proposal for observers to monitor any truce to end the violence between Israelis and Palestinians.

Mr. Ivry said he expects U.S. Middle East envoy Anthony Zinni to propose a cease-fire when he arrives in Israel today.

"If we can get an agreement, you have to monitor it," the ambassador said at a forum sponsored by the Center for Middle East Peace and Economic Cooperation this week. "It is a major idea that Zinni is going to put on the table."

Mr. Ivry hinted that Israel could accept observers if they would monitor Palestinian actions to halt terrorist attacks against Israel. Palestinian terrorist suspects are routinely released shortly after they are arrested, he said.

The ambassador also expressed optimism over the proposal by Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah, who promised Arab normalization of ties with Israel if the Jewish state withdrew from occupied land.

"I think we should take it as a good signal and use it," he said.

Mr. Ivry also urged the United States to retain American troops in the Sinai where they have been monitoring compliance with the 1979 Camp David accords.

He said the American flag is a symbolic presence in the region and any withdrawal of U.S. troops would send the wrong signal.

"Some people would interpret that as the United States trying to relinquish its influence in the region," he said.

South Asian society

India and Pakistan may be deadly rivals. Iran may be a terrorist state. Afghanistan may be in turmoil.

But at the home of Indian Ambassador Lalit Mansingh and his wife, Indira, rivals break bread. Turmoil is forgotten. Iran is a welcomed guest.

Mr. Mansingh referred to his "extended South Asian family," as he bid farewell to the ambassador of Sri Lanka and introduced the new ambassadors from Bangladesh and Nepal at a dinner at his grand residence Monday night.

"Our region is often known for the wrong reasons," he said. "But it is a region of great cultures, great joy … a common civilization and heritage."

Although they may speak different languages, "we understand each other perfectly," Mr. Mansingh said.

Mr. Mansingh included Pakistani Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi at his table, which demonstrated both ambassadors' determination to maintain dialogue despite the troubles between their countries. Bangladeshi Ambassador Syed Hasan Ahmad and Nepalese Ambassador Jai Pratap Rana also shared Mr. Mansingh's table.

Ali Jazine, chief of the Iranian Interests Section, and Haron Amin, charge d'affaires at the new Afghan Embassy, sat with the ambassador's wife, Indira. They talked about food and poetry, not the Taliban and terrorism.

Sri Lankan Ambassador Warnasena Rasaputram, who is returning to his country to direct a nongovernmental organization to promote development, called for a campaign to eliminate poverty.

"The same forces lined up to fight terrorism should be the same forces lined up to fight poverty," he said.

Protest to Uzbekistan

Congressional human rights monitors are urging Uzbek President Islam Karimov to end the systematic abuse of religious and civil groups, and honor Uzbekistan's pledges to guarantee democratic freedoms.

Mr. Karimov, who met President Bush in Washington this week, has failed to uphold commitments made 10 years ago when his country joined the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), said House and Senate members in a letter to Mr. Karimov.

They complained of a "pattern of clear, gross and uncorrected violations of fundamental OSCE principles on democracy, human rights and the rule of law."

"Against this backdrop, recent pronouncements … about a renewed commitment to address long-standing issues of democratization and human rights will continue to ring hollow unless they are matched by concrete deeds," they said.

The letter was signed by Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, Colorado Republican, and Rep. Christopher H. Smith, New Jersey Republican, who serve as co-chairmen of the congressional Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, and six other commission members.

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