- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 19, 2003

Not Israel's war
Israeli Ambassador Daniel Ayalon wants to make one thing perfectly clear as the United States and its allies prepare for war against Iraq: Israel is not involved.
However, Israel retains the right of self-defense if attacked by Saddam Hussein, he said in a recent speech at the American Enterprise Institute.
"We are trying to keep a very low profile here because Iraq really is not our business," he said.
Mr. Ayalon noted that Iraqi officials and some opponents of war have tried to drag Israel into the conflict by claiming President Bush is targeting Iraq only to protect Israel.
"But Iraq is not an Israeli problem," the ambassador said. "It's an international problem. It's a problem for the region. It's a problem for its own population.
"We are not part of it, although we recognize the threat we are under. And knowing Saddam's capabilities and trace record, we could very well be dragged into it. I hope not. And we have been sending this message: We are not part of it."
During the 1991 Gulf war, Saddam fired Scud missiles at Israel in an attempt to incite Israel to retaliate and change the focus of the war from the liberation of Kuwait to the Arab-Israeli conflict. The United States promised to protect Israel, which stayed out of the war. In 1981 Israel destroyed an Iraqi nuclear plant capable of producing nuclear weapons.
In the coming conflict in Iraq, Israel reserves the right to protect itself, Mr. Ayalon said, adding that "every country, certainly every democratically elected government, will reserve this right."
Israel considers Iran, which is linked to anti-Israeli terrorist groups, as a greater threat than Iraq, which has shown little interest in the goals of the Palestinians until recently, when Saddam began paying the families of suicide bombers.
"Iraq and Saddam Hussein attacked Iran back in 1980, causing more than 1 million casualties, and that had nothing to do with the Palestinian issue. Back in 1990 when he invaded Kuwait, that had nothing to do with Israel or the Palestinian problem. When he killed thousands of the Kurds … with mustard gas, it had nothing to do with the Palestinian issue," Mr. Ayalon said.
Pakistanis return
More than 100 Pakistanis held on immigration violations were sent home this month "with honor and dignity," according to the Pakistani Embassy.
Some were held in U.S. jails for as long as four months, the embassy said this week. All 103 detainees had exhausted immigration appeals, but their departure was delayed because commercial airlines were reluctant to accept them as passengers. The embassy said they returned March 13 on a chartered flight.
"The embassy was repeatedly approached by the friends and relatives of the detainees requesting their speedy departure for Pakistan," an embassy spokesman said. "It is important that they are reunited with their families, who were anxiously waiting for their return."
The embassy said 83 had violated orders that they return voluntarily after the Immigration and Naturalization Service rejected their claims for asylum or changes in their visas. Seventeen had been convicted of crimes such as credit-card fraud and aggravated battery. Only three were deported under a new immigrant-registration program designed to catch illegal aliens from more than 20 predominantly Muslim countries.
Davidow honored
Mexican Ambassador Juan Jose Bremer has presented Jeffrey Davidow with one of his country's highest awards to honor his service as the U.S. ambassador to Mexico from 1998 to 2002.
On behalf of Mexican President Vicente Fox, the ambassador awarded Mr. Davidow the Order of the Aguila Azteca, Mexico's highest honor presented to a foreigner.
Mr. Bremer praised Mr. Davidow's "professionalism, splendid sense of humor, genuine appreciation of our country [and] the will to play a constructive role" in U.S.-Mexican relations.
"Many different tasks derive from the diplomatic function, but perhaps all of them can be summed up in building bridges of understanding," Mr. Bremer said.
"This is not as simple as it may sound. It implies a twofold capacity for comprehension. One must of course understand what is going on in the world, but even more important, one must understand what is happening … in the country you represent and the country to which you are accredited."

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