- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 4, 2003

Israel mourns
The Israeli Embassy has opened a condolence book to honor Ilan Ramon, the Israeli astronaut killed in the explosion of the Space Shuttle Columbia on Saturday.
Col. Ramon, who died along with the crew of six Americans, was Israel's first astronaut and a military hero who was the youngest fighter pilot in the squadron that destroyed Iraq's nuclear facility in 1981, crippling Saddam Hussein's nuclear-weapons program.
"He represented our aspirations," embassy spokesman Mark Regev said yesterday.
Dozens of Washington-area residents had signed the book by midday.
"It's quite beautiful to see," Mr. Regev said of the turnout.
Israeli Ambassador Daniel Ayalon left Saturday for Houston to be with Col. Ramon's wife, Rona, and four children. He was accompanied by Gen. Moshe Sukenic, the embassy's military attache, and Col. Rani Falk, the air attache who was a friend of Col. Ramon's.
The book will be open today and tomorrow from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the embassy, 3514 International Drive NW.
Australian support
Australian Prime Minister John Howard will visit Washington next week to tell President Bush of his strong support for the disarmament of Saddam Hussein.
"Fundamentally, what is at stake here is whether the world is going to deal with the twin evils of terrorism and the spread of dangerous weapons," he told reporters yesterday in the capital, Canberra.
Mr. Howard will meet Mr. Bush on Feb. 10 and then travel to New York to urge the United Nations to enforce its resolutions that call for Iraq to destroy its weapons of mass destruction. He said he desires another U.N. Security Council resolution, but holds only a "slim" hope that Saddam will comply, according to a transcript of his news conference supplied yesterday by the Australian Embassy.
Mr. Howard, who is coming to Washington at Mr. Bush's invitation, said the visit will underscore the "close relation Australia has with the United States … at this absolutely critical time."
"I hope it is a peace mission," he said of his trip. "I remain very strongly of the view that there is a hope and it has to be regarded as a slim one but it is nonetheless a hope."
Mr. Howard added, "It's desirable to have a second resolution, not because of international law. I just believe that a second resolution will bring forth the maximum support and maximum involvement in military action if that regrettably becomes necessary."
Australia contributed two guided-missile frigates and a supply ship to the coalition against Saddam in the 1991 Gulf war and deployed 150 special-forces troops in 1998 when war against Iraq appeared likely.
Mr. Howard also emphasized that a military strike against Saddam is an attack against a defiant dictator, not an assault on Islam.
"There are many Muslim countries that disapprove of what Iraq is doing," he said. "We have no quarrel with Islam."
After his visit to New York, Mr. Howard will fly to London to consult with British Prime Minister Tony Blair and then to Indonesia to thank President Megawati Sukarnoputri for her government's investigation of the Bali bombing that killed more than 80 Australian tourists.
'Count on Romania'
Romanian Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana arrives in Washington today on a strong wave of Romanian support for military action against Saddam Hussein.
Mr. Geoana, a former ambassador to the United States, will meet Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and officials at the National Security Council and Defense Department on his visit this week.
Romanian President Ion Iliescu last week sent President Bush a strong commitment of Romanian support for war against Iraq, if Saddam continues to disregard U.N. demands that he destroy his weapons of mass destruction.
He told Mr. Bush he can "count on Romania" to support the United States "in its actions to make sure that Iraq disarms." Romania, with 100,000 troops, has the largest army of seven new nations invited to join NATO.
"Romanians can understand that aggressive dictators cannot be appeased or ignored, but must always be opposed," Mr. Iliescu said.
A new Gallup International public opinion poll shows that 49 percent of Romanians back military action in Iraq, while 42 percent oppose a war.

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