- The Washington Times - Friday, March 29, 2002

Diplomatic Seder

A Catholic ambassador celebrated the Jewish feast of Seder with Jewish and Muslim guests in an attempt to reach across religious divides.

Austrian Ambassador Peter Moser welcomed about 180 visitors to the Austrian Embassy, saying, "Peace, harmony and freedom are universal values, built within the core of our societies that start within the family. Tonight's event symbolizes these values."

The guests included Jewish, Muslim and Christian familes, feasting together to mark the beginning of Passover.

"At a time when we are faced with mistrust, hate and danger to our social systems and institutions, we need open dialogue to achieve understanding," Mr. Moser said. "We hope that people-to-people efforts that stress the best that mankind has to offer will help to defeat the forces of hate, violence and war.

"Jewish, Muslim and Christian traditions share great principles and achievements. These should provide the cement to bind us together and give us hope.

"They are much more important than the differences that have been magnified by those who want to drive us apart. It is a paradox of the modern world that our obsession with difference often makes us forget the sources of inspiration and encouragement that could provide the basis for peace, prosperity and happiness."

The diplomatic guests included Chilean Ambassador Andres Bianchi, Slovak Ambassador Martin Butora, Mohamed Hatem El Atawy of the Egyptian Embassy, Meshal Al-Thani of the Qatari Embassy and Darius Jadowski of the Polish Embassy.

Terror warning irks Italy

Italian authorities are annoyed that the U.S. Embassy in Rome issued a terrorist warning of a suspected Muslim militant plot to kill American tourists in Italy over the Easter holidays.

Defense Minister Antonio Martino told Rome's La Repubblica newspaper that the embassy's statement could "cause panic."

"I think the decision to release it was unfortunate and inopportune," he said.

The embassy on Wednesday cited "credible evidence" of a terrorist plot and warned Americans to avoid Florence, Milan, Venice and Verona.

Vincent Cannistraro, the CIA's former anti-terrorist chief and now security adviser to the Vatican, told the La Stampa newspaper that the embassy based its warning on information from Italian police.

"The alarm came from the Italian authorities who discovered that a group of five or six Egyptians entered the country in recent weeks to kill American tourists during the Easter holidays," he said.

Kazakh capitalism

The ambassador of Kazakhstan is hailing the U.S. Commerce Department's decision to recognize his country's economic reforms as proof that the former Soviet republic is adopting Western values.

Ambassador Kanat Saudabayev this week announced that the department has upgraded Kazakhstan to a "market-economy country," making it the first of the new Central Asian nations to attain that status.

"The decision to grant Kazakhstan a market-economy-country status is objective recognition on the part of the United States of our achievement in reforming the economy and of the democratic changes in the country," he said in a statement.

"We consider this step of the United States as a sign of support for the development model of an independent Kazakhstan. … The granting of the market-economy status provides new opportunity for further strengthening and broadening trade and economic partnerships between Kazakhstan and the United States, which already amount to billions of dollars."

The State Department acknowledges Kazakhstan's capitalist reforms but notes that its democratic foundation remains weak. The department's human rights report criticizes Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev for concentrating too much power in his own hands and notes that elections are still flawed.

"The government has made significant progress toward a market-based economy," the report says. "It successfully has privatized small- and medium-sized firms and many large-scale industrial complexes and has attracted significant foreign investment, primarily to the energy and minerals sectors."

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