- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 30, 2003

Arabs angry at Bush

The head of the Arab League yesterday complained to the U.S. ambassador to Egypt about the Bush administration’s support for Israel.

Amr Moussa, secretary-general of the 22-nation group, told Ambassador David Welch “there are feelings of anger and frustration in the Arab world because of the deterioration of the situation in the occupied territories and the American bias in favor of Israel,” Arab League spokesman Hisham Yussef told reporters in Cairo.

Mr. Welch later told reporters that he met with Mr. Moussa to bid him “a blessed Ramadan,” referring to the Muslim holy month.

He said he “did not object to any criticism of U.S. policy, as long as my voice can be heard also.”

Mr. Welch said he and Mr. Moussa discussed the “Israeli-Palestinian question,” and he reiterated U.S. determination to proceed on President Bush’s “road map” for Middle East peace.

The peace plan is in tatters because of Palestinian suicide bombings and Israeli retaliation.

Mr. Welch said, “I heard from him his views on the issues facing us in the region here. In particular, we had a discussion of the Israeli-Palestinian question. We also discussed Iraq, and I briefed [Mr. Moussa] on where we are in the process of the stabilization and reconstruction of Iraq and … the role the Arab League seeks to play.”

Mr. Welch said he expressed U.S. determination to move ahead on the road map.

“But there are certain conditions that must be applied,” he said. “You cannot begin this process toward negotiation except on the basis of security. When security is established, the American partners are going to be there to make this work.”

Venezuelan fantasy

The U.S. ambassador to Venezuela suspects supporters of President Hugo Chavez are gripped by a “hyperactive” imagination if they really believe the CIA is plotting to undermine the controversial leftist leader.

“As you say in good Venezuelan slang, that is complete ‘paja,’ ” Ambassador Charles Shapiro told reporters in the capital, Caracas, this week, referring to a colloquial term for nonsense.

Asked about claims by pro-Chavez members of the National Assembly, Mr. Shapiro said, “I think they are complete malarkey. This is just the result of a hyperactive imagination.”

Legislators Juan Barreto, Nicolas Maduro and Roger Rondon have claimed the CIA is trying to destabilize Mr. Chavez, charges the United States has denied.

Relations between the United States and Venezuela deteriorated as Mr. Chavez strengthened ties to Cuba and Libya. Venezuela is one of the top oil exporters to the United States.

Roots in Argentina

The secretary for Veterans Affairs this week met Argentina’s new ambassador and immediately struck up a friendship.

Anthony J. Principi told Ambassador Jose O. Bordon of his own Argentine heritage, explaining that his grandparents migrated to Argentina from Italy.

“Like many Americans, my family has roots in Argentina. I’m pleased to foster ties to this important South American ally and its wonderful people,” Mr. Principi said in a statement.

Mr. Principi said he discussed his department’s role in providing services to veterans, including disability pay, education benefits and home loans.

Berlin OKs embassy

Berlin officials have approved plans for a new U.S. Embassy near the historic Brandenburg Gate, advancing the diplomatic project after compromising on a security zone.

The United States agreed to reduce a security perimeter nearly 100 feet wide after city officials complained it would disrupt traffic. The Berlin state legislature must still endorse the plans.

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

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