- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 2, 2004

Surprise visit

The president of the interim government of Iraq and leading members of his Cabinet are expected in Washington today for meetings with President Bush and other administration officials, Iraqi sources say.

They told our correspondent Sharon Behn that President Ghazi Mashal Ajil al-Yawer will be accompanied by Defense Minister Hazem Shaalan, Transportation Minister Louei Hatim Sultan al-Aris, Public Works Minister Nasreen Mustafa Berwari and Industry Minister Hajim al-Hassani.

Mr. al-Yawer’s visit was not officially announced, but the four Cabinet ministers were expected to be in Washington next week for a Middle East conference at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars.

Message to Taliban

The U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan yesterday called on Taliban rebels to give up and accept an amnesty offered by U.S. forces and the Afghan government.

Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said if they “declare their allegiance” to the Afghan government and lay down their arms, “they will not be targeted.”

“Stop using terror tactics. Continuation of the armed resistance is against the will of the Afghan people and Islam,” said the ambassador, who is a native Afghan and a Muslim.

Mr. Khalilzad told reporters in Kabul that the amnesty does not apply to “international terrorists” or Taliban members who have committed criminal offenses.

“This initiative has the support of the president of Afghanistan. This is what we are offering in response to the many contacts that have been made,” the ambassador added, referring to talks between Afghan President Hamid Karzi and Taliban leaders.

The United States in 2001 overthrew the Taliban regime, which had been sheltering Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda terrorist network.

The U.S.-lead coalition has more than 18,000 troops hunting bin Laden and the most-wanted Taliban fugitives.

Mr. Khalilzad yesterday also said the United States has no connection to the mysterious aerial spraying of opium poppy fields that apparently has created health problems in children in areas affected by the operation.

The ambassador repeated U.S. opposition to the growth of poppies, which has made Afghanistan one of the world’s leading producers of opium.

“But I can say categorically at this point that the United States has not done it and the United States has not contracted or subcontracted anyone to do it,” he said.

Officials in the eastern province of Nangarhar reported an increase in skin rashes, diarrhea and respiratory problems in children after unidentified helicopters sprayed poppy fields on Nov. 7.

Serb road rage

The U.S. Embassy in Belgrade was embarrassed yesterday when it had to acknowledge that one of its employees, in a fit of road rage, ran his car into a motorcade carrying the president of Serbia and Montenegro.

The crash Tuesday was earlier reported as an attempted assassination of President Boris Tadic.

However, a Serbian security guard at the embassy swerved his car into the president’s motorcade because he was irritated that it had blocked a busy intersection in the capital. The guard, whom the embassy identified as Miroslav Cimpl, fled the scene of the crash.

“As soon as we realized that our worker was involved in the case, we informed the police,” the embassy said. “We regret what happened. Our employee is cooperating fully.”

Fear of assassination is not exaggerated in Belgrade, where a sniper killed Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic in March 2003.

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

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