Thursday, January 22, 2004

Afghans thank Bush

Afghan Ambassador Said T. Jawad praised President Bush for his encouraging words in his State of the Union speech and said Afghanistan is “proud” to be a partner with the United States in the fight against terrorism.

“We appreciate President Bush’s words of support for Afghanistan,” said the ambassador, after attending the speech on Tuesday night. “We cherish the close partnership and enduring friendship forged between our two nations, which has yielded mutually beneficial results.”

In his speech, Mr. Bush said, “The men and women of Afghanistan are building a nation that is free and proud and fighting terror.”

After the September 11, 2001, attacks in the United States, Afghanistan became the battleground in the war on terrorism, when U.S. forces liberated the country from the brutal Taliban regime that had sheltered Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda terrorist network.

Mr. Jawad said his nation is building a democratic society with a new constitution that provides for equal rights and the full participation of women in society.

“The ratification of our new constitution … is the most significant achievement in our common fight against terrorism,” he said.

Mr. Jawad credited Afghan President Hamid Karzai with leading the country toward democracy and noted that Afghanistan will hold its first free national elections later this year.

“I welcome President Bush’s commitment to help the Afghan people finish the historic work of building democracy and his plan to help further focus on the development of free elections, free markets and free press,” the ambassador said.

“Our successful experience in Afghanistan proves that free press is a core value necessary for the success of political democracy.”

Mr. Jawad said his government shares Mr. Bush’s belief that “democracy is a realistic goal in all societies.”

“Our new constitution proves that traditions and values of the Afghan society are fully compatible … with an open democracy,” he said.

Tracking terrorists

Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan yesterday warned terrorist financiers that they are targets of a U.S.-Saudi task force that is pursuing money laundering through charities and other front groups.

“We are sending a message around the world. If you fund or support terrorism, then you are a terrorist and we are coming after you,” he said.

Prince Bandar said an appeal to the United Nations yesterday to extend sanctions on a Saudi-based charity is another example of the successful cooperation of U.S. and Saudi investigators.

“We are working closely together and rapidly moving against sources of terror financing,” he said.

Treasury Secretary John W. Snow and Adel al-Jubeir, foreign-affairs adviser to Crown Prince Abdullah, asked the U.N. sanctions committee to freeze the assets of four foreign branches of the Saudi-based Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation. The offices are in Kenya, Indonesia, Pakistan and Tanzania.

“Nothing can be more evil than the act of collecting money intended for charity and then diverting that money to support the murder of the innocent,” Prince Bandar said in a statement.

More on visas

A State Department official objected to an item in Embassy Row this week that described new U.S. visa waiver procedures.

The official said the United States had complained about the manner in which Belgium secured its passports, not about its process for issuing them.

Belgium used to allow some local government offices to keep blank passports in unsecured locations, but the country since has changed the procedure.

The official praised the “good-faith efforts Belgium made to correct the problem.”

• Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail

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