- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Terrorism a regime tool
A former prime minister of Lebanon, who called his country the "first victim of terrorism," believes the only way to stop terrorists is to crush regimes that "teach people to hate and kill."
Michel Aoun, on a recent visit to Washington, called terrorism a "safety valve" for the dictatorial regimes that support such activity to divert attention from the failure of their own policies.
"If we are to effectively fight terrorism, we have to understand that it is inseparable from the regimes that harbor it," he told a forum of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.
"Terrorism is a internal safety valve for these regimes and a key instrument of their foreign policy applied as blackmail to others. Therefore, the eradication of terrorism must by necessity begin with the toppling of non-democratic regimes that teach people to hate and kill and that push people to acts of suicide," he said.
Only democratic governments can bring freedom and respect for human rights, said Mr. Aoun, a Christian Lebanese who was forced from power by Syrian occupation forces in 1990 and now lives in Paris. He, however, noted the "magnitude of the difficulties" involved in promoting democracy in countries that have never known freedom.
"That … seems to me to be much harder to achieve than victory on the battlefield, the outcome of which can be sealed in days or weeks," he said.
"Indeed, democracy is not an infrastructure that one builds in a few months. … And it cannot be achieved through a simple voting exercise. It is first and foremost an education of concepts.
"That is why any regime change must be accompanied by a fundamental change in the system of education to facilitate the learning of new concepts and applying them to public life."
Mr. Aoun also said economic assistance must follow regime change.
"If democracy is the key to liberate the individual from fear, economic development is key to liberate the individual from need," he said.
Mr. Aoun blamed Lebanon's problems on Syria, a "regime that is the antithesis of democracy." The State Department classifies Syria as a state sponsor of terrorism.
He also paid "genuine homage" to the Americans killed trying to bring peace to Lebanon in the 1980s, when terrorists killed 63 persons in an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Beirut and 241 American troops in a strike on U.S. military barracks.
"They came to Lebanon for peace, and real peace must be achieved," he said. "God bless their souls."

Venezuela seeks proof
Caracas is calling on the United States to provide evidence of terrorist finance networks in Venezuela in response to recent comments from the U.S. ambassador there and a top U.S. general.
"Whoever has evidence of situations like those described must first give them to corresponding authorities," Foreign Minister Roy Chaderton told the Union Radio station in the capital, Caracas, on Monday.
"That evidence … could lead to the opening of an investigation. A simple denunciation isn't enough."
Ambassador Charles Shapiro told reporters last week of his concerns that terrorists have established bases throughout South America. His comments followed similar remarks by Gen. James T. Hill, head of the U.S. Southern Command.

U.S. won't punish Israel
The U.S. ambassador to Israel is denying news reports that Washington is outraged by Israeli security leaks about a planned date for an invasion of Iraq.
"I don't know where those press reports came from, but they are without foundation," Ambassador Daniel Kurtzer told reporters Monday, after meeting with Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom.
The Israeli daily newspaper Ma'ariv, for example, reported that the Bush administration was so angry with Israel that it would withhold information about the actual date of the start of military action.
"The cooperation between our two countries is unbelievably good, and it is unparalleled in the history of our relations," Mr. Kurtzer said. "There's no way we are going to surprise our ally."
Mr. Shalom on Sunday had a long phone conversation with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, United Press International reported.

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