- The Washington Times - Friday, April 18, 2003

Pressuring Syria
The American ambassador to Russia is urging Moscow to pressure its Middle Eastern ally Syria into cooperating with U.S. efforts to rebuild Iraq.
Meanwhile, Syria's ambassador to the United States is denying Washington's accusations that his country is sheltering Iraqi officials on the run from the U.S.-led coalition that toppled dictator Saddam Hussein's regime.
U.S. Ambassador Alexander Vershbow said in a Moscow news conference this week, "We hope that in the current period, Russia will join us in encouraging the government of Syria in helping to consolidate peace in Iraq, rather than doing the opposite."
He also said the United States has "some concerns going back some years" over Russia supplying weapons to the authoritarian regime in Syria.
Mr. Vershbow added that the Bush administration hopes to re-establish the good relations Washington and Moscow shared before Russia began actively campaigning against U.S. action in Iraq.
"We are trying to move forward in our relations with Russia, both on the postwar Iraq issues and on the broader bilateral relationship," he said.
In Washington, Syrian Ambassador Rostom Al-Zoubi is defending his country against accusations that it is sheltering top Iraqi officials and developing chemical weapons.
Syria does not "harbor or hide or receive anybody from the Iraqi regime," he said Wednesday night on CNN's "Larry King Live."
He denied Bush administration accusations that Farouk Hijazi, Iraq's ambassador to Tunisia and once the No. 3 official in Saddam's intelligence service, is in Syria.
"I assure you, he is not there and that we will not accept anybody representing the former regime of Saddam Hussein," Mr. Al-Zoubi said.
"This campaign of accusations should be cooled down because these accusations will not serve the interest of the United States of America nor the stability and peace in the region," he added.

EU's 'historic day'
Ambassadors from European countries that supported or opposed the war in Iraq cheered when Secretary of State Colin L. Powell showed up at a diplomatic reception to celebrate the expansion of the European Union.
"It's a great pleasure to be with you all this evening and to share in this historic day," Mr. Powell said Wednesday night.
The 15-nation European Union added as new members 10 states from Eastern Europe in a ceremony in Athens earlier that day.
"Thanks to the vision, dedication and hard work that built and nurtured two magnificent institutions, NATO and the European Union, today's generation of Europeans are not divided from one another by force and fear," Mr. Powell said.
"Today, no slabs of concrete or secret police obstruct the realization of their highest hopes. Today, free peoples from across Europe willingly commit themselves to shaping a shared future."
Mr. Powell encouraged Europeans to "maintain an open, vigorous dialogue with the United States."
"And I think we have demonstrated in recent months that we can do that," he said with a chuckle, as diplomats shared a laugh.

Population award
Werner Fornos, an outspoken critic of President Bush's population policies, has won the $12,500 U.N. Population Award.
"The selection is in recognition of your outstanding contribution to the awareness of population growth," Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, executive director of the U.N. Population Fund, said in a letter to Mr. Fornos.
Mr. Fornos, president of Washington-based Population Institute, has repeatedly denounced the Bush administration for refusing to fund foreign private organizations that promote abortion as part of family planning efforts.
He also has supported China's one-child policy, which the State Department has criticized for "forced abortion and forced sterilization" of women who have more than one child.
Mr. Fornos, a German refugee from World War II, is a former executive director of the Population Action Council and the Planned Parenthood Federation of America in Washington.
The U.N. fund announced this week that the Family Planning Association of Kenya also will receive the award at a June 18 ceremony at U.N. headquarters in New York.

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