- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Anthrax scare

The U.S. Embassy in Sri Lanka closed yesterday after the ambassador’s office received a “threatening letter” containing an unidentified white powder.

The State Department said the powder is being tested to make sure it is not anthrax.

“The embassy received mail that may have been contaminated. The embassy closed as a precautionary measure. Professional testing of the material in the mail is currently under way,” said spokesman Adam Ereli.

In the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo, an unidentified embassy employee told Kyodo News agency that an embassy e-mail said a secretary in Ambassador Jeffrey Lunstead’s office opened a “threatening letter” and discovered white powder in the envelop.

The ambassador closed the third and fourth floors of the embassy and the mail room and closed the entire embassy later in the day, the source said.

“We were told the order [to close the embassy] came from Washington,” the source said.

Sri Lanka has been engulfed in a deadly civil war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam that has claimed more than 60,000 lives since the 1980s. The group has specialized in suicide bombings but is not known to have links to the al Qaeda terrorist network.

Venezuelan oil

Despite diplomatic tension with Venezuela, the United States still wants to buy oil from the country regardless of the outcome of a referendum next week that will determine the fate of leftist President Hugo Chavez.

“Whatever the outcome is, we want to continue buying oil from Venezuela and hope the country will continue selling oil to the United States,” U.S. Ambassador Charles Shapiro said after foreign ambassadors met with Mr. Chavez earlier this week.

“These are the mutual interests of both countries — Venezuela wants to keep selling its oil on world markets, and the United States is a trustworthy consumer,” he said.

Venezuela sells the United States about 1.4 million barrels a day, more than 17 percent of U.S. consumption. Venezuela is the world’s fifth-largest oil producer.

The United States has had difficult relations with Mr. Chavez, who has accused the Bush administration of supporting his political opponents. Mr. Chavez has also established strong relations with Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

Maccabi Games

Israeli Ambassador Daniel Ayalon urged Jewish athletes to remember the ancient Maccabis, as they compete this week in Olympic-styled games in Washington.

“Just as the Maccabis stood proud as Jews, so should you,” he told international Jewish athletes at the opening of the Maccabi Games at the MCI Center.

“Remember, you are not only a Maccabi on the sports field. You can be a Maccabi everywhere you go.”

The annual Jewish athletic competition is named after the ancient Maccabean freedom fighters who drove the Greeks out of Jerusalem in the second century B.C. The battle is remembered as a victory of the few over the many and was the origin of the Hanukkah celebration. When the Jewish warriors reconsecrated the temple in Jerusalem, they found only enough oil to light a lamp for one day. However, the oil burned for eight days.

Mr. Ayalon thanked Abe Pollin, owner of the Washington Wizards basketball team, and the Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington for hosting the games.

He praised the athletes as symbols of the “vitality of the Jewish spirit.”

“It is young people like you who built our country and continue to fight for her grand ideas,” Mr. Ayalon said.

“You may ask: ‘How can I help to ensure the continuity of Israel and the Jewish people?’ Learn about Israel and your faith. Advocate on behalf of Israel. … Become part of our campaign for freedom, tolerance, security and progress.”

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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