- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 19, 2002

Test for civilization

Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah is worried that his country could slip off Washington's priority list as the focus of the war on terrorism shifts to Iraq and shadowy corners of the world where al Qaeda operatives are believed to be hiding.

"My message is to bring up the focus on Afghanistan," Mr. Abdullah told Embassy Row this week at the country's first national day celebration at the Afghan Embassy in 23 years.

"This is a test for the civilized world. Success in Afghanistan will mean credibility in the eyes of the world and the hearts of Afghan people, who have suffered so much from terrorism and dictatorship.

"We know the United States cannot afford to lose the peace in Afghanistan."

Mr. Abdullah said Afghanistan has received only about $300 million of the $1.8 billion pledged from developed countries for the reconstruction of its roads, schools, utilities and other infrastructure destroyed by Taliban rule, civil chaos and the Soviet invasion, dating from 1979. The humanitarian crisis is imminent, as more than 1.6 million Afghans displaced by the war begin returning home.

President Bush has said the United States has delivered $297 million in aid and released $223 million in Afghan funds frozen here.

Mr. Abdullah said he will discuss these issues in meetings with National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who attended the reception hosted by Afghan Ambassador Ishaq Shahryar.

Mr. Abdullah, in a separate interview with the Associated Press, said, "While there are other major concerns for the United States, like the Middle East, like Iraq, the focus [of] the campaign against terror shouldn't be shifted because the campaign is far from over."

He viewed Iraq's offer to allow the return of U.N. weapons inspectors as just another ploy by Saddam Hussein to avoid a showdown.

"In the past, they have played for time," he said. "I wonder if they realize that that period is over now."

Kuwait raps report

Kuwaiti diplomats yesterday denounced news reports that identified a suspected al Qaeda terrorist as a Kuwaiti citizen.

Omar al-Faruq, whose last name has also been spelled as Farouq and Farouk, was arrested two months ago in Indonesia and turned over to U.S. authorities, who said he has provided "specific and credible" information about terrorist plots against U.S. targets.

However, Faruq is an alias for Mahmoud Ahmad Mohammed Ahmad, who was born in Iraq in 1969, the Kuwaiti Foreign Ministry said. He holds an Iraqi passport with the number 0547547/535 and also carries additional passports under different names.

He last lived in Kuwait in August 1995, the ministry said.

"Al-Faruq is absolutely not a Kuwaiti citizen," said Tareq Al-Mezrem, acting director of the Kuwait Information Office in Washington. "The irresponsible statements [in news reports] are smearing Kuwaitis worldwide. These baseless reports damage the credibility of the press and harm the Kuwaiti people, who rightfully consider themselves a strong friend and partner of the United States."

Mr. Mezrem added that his country will never forget that the United States liberated Kuwait from Iraqi occupation in 1991.

"Kuwait, of course, stands strong with America and the international community in the ongoing campaign against terrorism," he said.

Anti-terror treaty

Cyprus yesterday hailed a new treaty with the United States aimed at combatting terrorism, organized crime, drug trafficking and related violent crimes.

"This treaty is an effective tool enabling us to join forces with the United States in a cooperative effort to combat and to deter criminal activity," Cypriot Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides said.

The U.S.-Cyprus Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty became effective immediately after Mr. Kasoulides and Marc Grossman, undersecretary of state for political affairs, exchanged documents showing the treaty had been ratified by each country's legislature.

The treaty will make it easier for each country to extradite suspects, execute search warrants and seizures of assets, and to share documents, records and intelligence reports, the Cypriot Embassy said.

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