- The Washington Times - Monday, August 16, 2004

Letter in Malaysia

The U.S. Embassy in Malaysia received a threatening letter during the weekend containing a suspicious powder, the second such incident this month.

The letter included a leaflet from a previously unknown group called Jemaah Muhajirin Muhammad, which demanded that the United States withdraw from Iraq and lift sanctions on Sudan “or face the consequences.”

Three embassy staff members were exposed to the yellowish powder in the letter, but tested negative for contamination by a toxic substance, a Malaysian police official said yesterday. The embassy remained open yesterday.

Abu AI Blat, chief of investigations in the capital, Kuala Lumpur, told reporters that he suspects that the letter was just an attempt to intimidate the embassy.

“We think it’s just a hoax and this group is nonexistent, but we will take precautions by investigating this seriously,” he said.

An embassy spokesman said the letter arrived Saturday, but was opened yesterday.

“The envelope containing an unidentified substance was opened by an embassy employee this morning, and the Malaysian police [hazardous-material] unit was called in to inspect it,” he said. “At this point, all appropriate actions are being taken. The substance is being tested.”

The U.S. Embassy in Sri Lanka closed Aug. 10 after receiving a similar letter, which was addressed to Ambassador Jeffrey J. Lunstead. The powder turned out to be harmless, and the embassy reopened yesterday.

Syria must withdraw

American diplomats and members of Congress are pressing Syria to remove its forces from Lebanon, where they intervened 28 years ago during the country’s long civil war.

U.S. Ambassador Vincent Battle told the An-Nahar newspaper in Beirut: “It is time the Syrian army withdrew from Lebanon” so the country can “enjoy total sovereignty.”

Mr. Battle also said the United States wants the Lebanese government to dispatch troops to the southern part of the country to disband the Syrian-backed Hezbollah militia, which Washington has labeled a terrorist organization.

“We have begun talks with the Lebanese government with a view to deploying the Lebanese army in southern Lebanon and disarming Hezbollah, but they haven’t brought about a result for the time being,” Mr. Battle said.

Walid Maalouf, a Lebanese-American and a member of the U.S. delegation to the United Nations, told the newspaper that Lebanon’s U.N. representatives are totally controlled by Syria.

“We have been able to observe at the United Nations that Lebanese diplomats do not take the slightest initiative but simply wait for the orders of Syrian diplomats,” he said.

A congressional delegation led by Rep. Christopher Shays, Connecticut Republican, delivered a similar message in weekend meetings with Lebanese President Emile Lahoud and Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Syrian forces intervened in the Lebanese civil war in 1976. The fighting finally ended in 1991, after more than 100,000 deaths and 100,000 injuries.

Traveling with Charley

Egyptian diplomat Hesham Elnakib spent his summer vacation being chased by Hurricane Charley.

In a three-day road trip that began Thursday, Mr. Elnakib accidentally drove into the path of the storm. He arrived in Tampa only to face an evacuation order. He met with local residents, who suggested that he go to Myrtle Beach, S.C.

He pulled in there to face another evacuation. Frustrated, he returned to Washington.

“Sometimes, you have to believe in destiny,” Mr. Elnakib said. “My destiny seems to be in D.C.”

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

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