- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 19, 2004

Angry pro-American

Stephen Robinson is a rare breed in Britain: a pro-American journalist.

However, after waiting seven hours at the U.S. Embassy in London for a visa to cover the Republican National Convention, he sounds like what he calls his “leftie friends,” who denounce President Bush as a “grinning monkey.”

Mr. Robinson, who used to live in Washington, wrote a bitter article for London’s Daily Telegraph yesterday describing his experiences this week among the “huddled masses” trying to get their passports stamped.

“Normally, I am absurdly, unquestioningly pro-American,” he wrote. “When my leftie friends refer to George W. Bush as a grinning monkey, I rebuke them and tell them to show more respect to the leader of the free world. … Yet even I find I am enraged by the current attitude of America in its disproportionate approach to defending the homeland.”

Mr. Robinson said he showed up at the embassy “just after dawn” on Tuesday along with “fellow visa seekers” who included business executives and students. Seven hours later, an embassy staffer glanced over his visa application for about 30 seconds and approved it, he said.

During that long wait, Mr. Robinson’s patience evaporated in a hot waiting room without air conditioning where, he said, they could not even get a drink of water.

His aggravation started earlier. To get a U.S. visa these days, he said, a British subject has to call a special embassy phone number that costs $1.80 a minute. Mr. Robinson was instructed to stand in a line outside the embassy only to find out that the information was wrong.

“We had to leave the line to find a bank, wait for an hour for it to open, pay $100 for our visa fee [and] then rejoin the back of the line,” he wrote.

Later he was fingerprinted “like a common criminal.”

In Washington a State Department official said Mr. Robinson could have avoided the delay if he had made an appointment with the consular section. Long waits are not unusual during the summer tourist season, the official said.

Also, the embassy usually receives compliments for courteous service, rather than complaints about misinformation from the visa phone line, the official said.

No anthrax found

Malaysian authorities say initial tests on a suspicious powder found in an envelope opened at the U.S. Embassy found no evidence of anthrax.

“Initial tests have not shown any indication of anthrax spores. We are quite sure that it’s not anthrax,” senior assistant police commissioner Aziz Bulat told Reuters.

The embassy opened the envelope on Monday, but three employees who handled it tested negative for exposure to a toxic substance.

The letter incident was the second this month. The U.S. Embassy in Sri Lanka closed for several days after receiving a similar letter. The powder inside that envelope proved to be harmless.

Disappointed in Syria

The senior Democrat on the House International Relations Committee yesterday expressed his frustration with Syria for failing to cut ties to terrorist groups and withdraw from Lebanon.

“Syria was a major disappointment,” said Rep. Tom Lantos, California Democrat, at a press conference at the U.S. Embassy in Jordan, where he met King Abdullah II and Foreign Minister Marwan Moasher.

Mr. Lantos, on a Middle East tour, met on Wednesday with Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk Sharaa in Damascus.

“I emphasized my disappointment and my regret that apparently Syria has not yet decided … conclusively that it wishes to engage in the global war on terrorism,” Mr. Lantos said.

He also urged Syria to withdraw its troops from Lebanon, where they were first deployed in 1976 during the Lebanese civil war.

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

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