- The Washington Times - Monday, January 5, 2004

Turkey got message

Turkey woke up to the threat of terrorism after suicide bombers attacked four targets in Istanbul in November, a senior State Department official said yesterday.

“Turkey understands that terrorism is as much a threat to them as to the United States,” the official said in a background briefing on the upcoming Washington visit of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“The situation has dramatically changed since the November bombings.”

Terrorists with suspected links to al Qaeda killed 23 persons in twin synagogue bombings and at least 27 in attacks on a British bank and the British Consulate, which left more than 450 injured.

The State Department official, who insisted on anonymity, noted that critics had raised questions about Turkey’s commitment to the war on terrorism after its parliament in March failed to approve troops for the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

However, the official said, the United States was satisfied with Turkey’s decision in October to send troops to help in the postwar reconstruction of Iraq, although the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council rejected the offer.

He said the Bush administration “did not foresee” the opposition from Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims on the council. The administration had expected Kurdish representatives to object to the presence of Turkish troops.

The council’s decision proves it is no puppet government of the United States, the official said.

Mr. Erdogan is expected to discuss the war on terrorism when he meets with President Bush on Jan. 28, the official said. They also are due to review plans for the June 28-29 NATO summit in Istanbul, when seven new members will be admitted to the Western alliance. Mr. Bush is scheduled to attend the NATO meeting.

Syria reaches out

Syria yesterday appealed to the new U.S. ambassador for better relations with the United States, which has authorized sanctions against Syria for its support of terrorism and occupation of Lebanon.

Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk Sharaa sent a reconciliation message to Washington, as he welcomed Ambassador Margaret Scobey, who presented her diplomatic credentials.

“He emphasized the importance of the establishment of a positive and constructive dialogue between the two countries to create a better understanding for their respective stances,” the official Syrian Arab News Agency reported.

“He welcomed Ambassador Scobey, wishing her success in improving ties between Syria and the United States.”

President Bush last month signed the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act, which authorizes him to impose trade sanctions.

The legislation demands that Syria halt its support of terrorism against Israel and prevent militants from crossing from Syria into Iraq. The act also calls on Syria to halt the development of weapons of mass destruction, including medium- and long-range missiles, and to withdraw an estimated 20,000 troops from Lebanon.

Syria has denounced the measure and defended its support of groups such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command.

Miss Scobey, 49, is a career diplomat who most recently served as deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Saudi Arabia. Her previous assignments included a tour as deputy chief of mission in Yemen and as consul general in Jerusalem.

Bridge for Tajikistan

The U.S. ambassador to Tajikistan has signed an agreement for the United States to build a bridge over the river that separates the former Soviet republic from Afghanistan.

The bridge over the Pyandzh River will help promote economic development in Tajikistan, which provided support for the U.S.-led liberation of Afghanistan.

Ambassador Richard Hoagland signed the agreement to provide up to $40 million for the project last week.

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

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