- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 6, 2002

Lebanese update

Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri has reviewed a broad range of issues with U.S. officials on his Washington visit this week but has said little about his talks, except that they "are going well."

He met Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and World Bank President James D. Wolfensohn on Monday. With Mr. Powell, he discussed Lebanon's water conflict with Israel, the pending confrontation with Iraq and the latest Israeli-Palestinian developments. With Mr. Wolfensohn, the prime minister discussed preparations for a Paris conference to support Lebanon's financial reform program.

"Everything is going in a good direction, a positive direction," Mr. Hariri told reporters after his meeting with Mr. Powell.

One reporter asked whether they discussed Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based Palestinian militant group that the United States considers a terrorist organization. Lebanon, however, considers it a legitimate group fighting against Israel.

"There has been a dialogue between Lebanon and the United States on this issue for a long time," he said.

Mr. Hariri defended Lebanon's right to divert water from the Wazzani River, which feeds Israel's main source of fresh water in the Sea of Galilee. Israel has threatened war with Lebanon over the water dispute.

At the State Department meeting, Mr. Hariri was accompanied by Lebanese Ambassador Farid Abboud. William Burns, the assistant secretary of state for Middle Eastern affairs, and David Satterfield, Mr. Burn's deputy, also attended the meeting.

The prime minister said his discussions with the World Bank president were "good and continuously positive."

"We always keep the World Bank updated on the government's programs, and the same goes for" the International Monetary Fund, he said. "Both institutions positively view the steps the government has taken and intends to take in the future."

The Paris conference is scheduled for Nov. 23.

American tour

Czech Ambassador Martin Palous marked his first year in Washington with a high-pressure but successful visit by Czech President Vaclav Havel.

The visit in September capped months of meticulous planning that included scheduling talks with President Bush, a visit to New York to commemorate the anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks and a trip to Miami, where Mr. Havel was warmly received by the city's Cuban community.

"For an ambassador and his team, visits paid by any of the highest officials of their country always bring great challenges, and all of their efforts are driven by one simple goal to have each visit end as a success," Mr. Palous wrote in the recent edition of the Czech Embassy's newsletter.

"This can mean several months of preparation and careful consideration setting up meetings, conferring with various parties and putting together a program that is organized virtually minute by minute and yet still may contain open questions and uncertainties."

Fortunately for the ambassador there were no unpleasant surprises.

"President Havel's visit was, indeed, the crowning event of my first year as ambassador," Mr. Palous wrote.

The meeting with Mr. Bush went well. They discussed strengthening U.S.-Czech relations and preparations for this month's NATO summit in the Czech capital, Prague. They also talked about Czech efforts in the war on terrorism and the promotion of human rights worldwide.

National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice and Craig Stapleton, the U.S. ambassador to the Czech Republic, also attended the White House meeting. Mr. Havel was accompanied by Defense Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik and Deputy Foreign Minister Alexandr Vondra, the former Czech ambassador to the United States.

Mr. Havel also met House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert and members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Mr. Havel later unveiled a statue of T.G. Masaryk, the first president of Czechoslovakia, before traveling to New York.

"The last stop of the president's visit was Miami, where everyone [in his delegation] was overwhelmed by the Cuban community's warm reception and by the vast publicity granted to President Havel as he spoke to Cuban dissidents in Miami, as well as to those living in Cuba," Mr. Palous wrote.

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