- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Secure containers

The United States will send agents to help Malaysia inspect cargo containers at one of the country’s busiest ports, as part of a global effort to protect international shipping from terrorism, Customs Commissioner Robert C. Bonner said this week.

He announced a similar arrangement with Thailand last week. The two countries bring to 25 the number of ports in Africa, Asia, Europe and North America protected under the U.S. Container Security Initiative (CSI).

Malaysia’s customs director, Datuk Abdul Halil bin Abdul Mutalib, said the agents will be assigned to the port of Tanjung Pelepas, on the southern tip of the Malay peninsula near the world’s busiest shipping lanes in the Strait of Malacca.

Mr. Bonner said Malaysia “is helping to make a safer, more secure world-trading system” by joining the CSI.

“The primary purpose of the CSI is to protect the global-trading system and the trade lanes between CSI ports and the U.S.,” Mr. Bonner said. “Because CSI will detect and therefore deter attempts by terrorists to exploit cargo containers, the [CSI] protects the U.S. against acts of terrorism,” he said.

Mr. Mutalib, on a visit to Washington, added, “We agree that CSI is essential in securing an indispensable but vulnerable link in the chain of global trade: containerized shipping.

“We recognize the importance to deter and interdict any terrorist attempt to disrupt global trade or to attempt to make use of commercial shipping to further their own schemes.”

Mr. Bonner and Thailand’s customs director, Chavalit Sethameteekul, said U.S. agents will be assigned to the port of Laem Chabang.

The CSI is designed to inspect suspicious containers before they are loaded onto ships bound for the United States, which receives an estimated 7 million cargo containers a year.

The U.S. Bureau of Customs and Border Protection inaugurated the program in 2002.

Afghan news

Afghan Ambassador Said Tayed Jawad this week began publishing a biweekly newsletter “to inform the public of Afghan Embassy activities and the process of rebuilding Afghanistan.”

The first edition features news on Mr. Jawad’s meeting with Mexican President Vincente Fox to present his diplomatic credentials as a non-resident ambassador.

“I am privileged to convey the warm wishes of President [Hamid] Karzai and the people of Afghanistan to the president and people of Mexico at this crucial juncture of our history,” Mr. Jawad said.

After the diplomatic introduction, the ambassador made a pitch for foreign investment. He promoted the “tremendous investment opportunities” in Afghanistan three years after the United States liberated the country from the brutal rule of the Taliban regime, which sheltered Osama bin Laden.

Mr. Jawad this month also signed four agreements with the World Bank to provide $200 million in development aid.

“These major credits and grants, which consists of 50 percent of the World Bank’s entire grants and credits to needy countries, signify the confidence of the international community in the Afghan government and the future of our country,” he said.

Fire at embassy

The Japanese Embassy seems to be attracting fires, but officials have found no evidence of arson.

A minor blaze broke out on the roof of the embassy Monday night, but firefighters quickly extinguished the flames. No one was injured in the fire, which erupted at about 11:30 p.m.

Last year, a fire damaged the roof of the residence of Japanese Ambassador Ryozo Kato, who was inside his home at the time. He was not injured.

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

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