- The Washington Times - Monday, October 27, 2003

Egyptian press riled

The Egyptian Journalists’ Union is angry at U.S. Ambassador David Welch, who has criticized some Egyptian reporters for peddling “crazy conspiracy” theories and hostile stories on U.S. foreign policy.

The union, which represents most Egyptian reporters, denounced Mr. Welch for “irresponsible and impudent declarations” in a statement issued during the weekend.

It also urged “the organs of the press, the writers, the journalists and national forces not to deal with this ambassador and to consider him persona non grata for reason of his opposition to freedom of the press and to the causes and interests of the Arab people.”

The union also accused Mr. Welch of promoting “Zionist conspiracies against the countries of the region.”

Mr. Welch, the ambassador in Egypt since 2001, upset Egyptian journalists with his criticism of some reporting on U.S. foreign policy in an Oct. 20 speech at the American University in Cairo. However, he emphasized his support for a free press and urged Egyptian reporters to exercise that right responsibly.

“I have sometimes been accused of being critical of the media here,” he told the forum. “Actually, I don’t think I’ve been as critical of the media here as I might have been. Considering the number of regrettable articles I’ve seen, proposing crazy conspiracy theories or attacking the United States in very hostile terms, I think I’ve been quite measured in my reaction.”

Mr. Welch cited an article in the government-run al Gumhuriya newspaper that referred to the Oct. 4 terrorist bombing of an Israeli restaurant as a “brave commando operation.”

“There are no ‘martyrs’ in such a blind act of terror, just victims and the families and friends of victims,” he said.

Mr. Welch also denounced another newspaper for commentary that accused the United States of masterminding the recent bombing of the Imam Ali mosque in Najaf, Iraq.

“The United States has always stood for freedom of expression and of the press. I hope we always will,” he said. “But freedoms come with responsibilities. The right to free speech is bound up with the responsibility to seek out facts and to base public arguments on credible evidence.”

Praying for Israel

Israeli Ambassador Daniel Ayalon thanked Christians for their support of the Jewish state in an address at an evangelical Christian church in Tampa, Fla.

“We are an ordinary people, but with God’s help, we are able to do the extraordinary,” he told about 4,000 worshippers at the Without Walls International Church on Sunday.

Mr. Ayalon was one of several Israeli diplomats who attended Christian services as part of a “Day of Prayer and Solidarity with Israel,” organized by the Stand for Israel project of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews.

The worship services in cities throughout the United States involved more than 16,000 churches, according to the organizers, which included the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, the world’s largest Protestant denomination.

Mr. Ayalon, in a statement announcing the Day of Prayer, said, “The American Christian community is a bedrock of support for the state of Israel and its people.”

Other Israeli diplomats participating in the services included Shmuel Ben-Schmuel, counsel general in Atlanta, and Mose Ram, counsel general to the Midwest.

Euro optimism

A member of the Greek parliament was optimistic about the future of U.S.-European relations, as he addressed Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty last week.

“All we have to do is work on our relations,” Stavros Kalafatis said.

He also cited Europe’s efforts to deal with terrorism, noting that the Council of Europe adopted a convention on terrorism in 1977.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail [email protected]

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