- The Washington Times - Monday, June 21, 2004

Threat to ANZUS

The U.S. ambassador to Australia yesterday denounced attempts to weaken ties between the two allies, as the political opposition that supports a withdrawal of Australian troops from Iraq scored new gains in opinion polls six weeks before legislative elections.

“This is not a time for us to pull apart. This is a time to pull together,” Ambassador J. Thomas Schieffer said in testimony before a defense panel of the Australian Parliament.

“The stakes are too high, the risks are too great for us to be comfortable in going our separate ways. The world may still be a dangerous place, but, surely, we are safer in facing it together than apart.”

Mr. Schieffer officially was addressing the continued relevance of the nearly 53-year-old ANZUS alliance linking Australia, New Zealand and the United States, but he indirectly was referring to the stakes in the Aug. 7 elections. The opposition Labor Party is running even in the polls with the ruling conservative coalition led by Prime Minister John Howard, a strong supporter of President Bush.

Labor Party leader Mark Latham has demanded a withdrawal of Australia’s 850 troops in Iraq and has called Mr. Bush “dangerous and incompetent.”

Mr. Schieffer, addressing the defense subcommittee of the Joint Standing Committee of Foreign Affairs, Defense and Trade, said the ANZUS treaty has served the three nations well as a mutual defense pact.

“Now we look out on an emerging world order very different from the one … contemplated in 1951,” he said. “In this new world, our enemies will not always wear uniforms or fly national flags. We may see them crossing the street before we realize they have crossed our borders. …

“Terrorism … can strike at home or abroad. Whether it is a center of finance like the World Trade Center or a center of recreation like Bali, the lives of our citizens can be snuffed out in a moment of irrationality.”

Australia lost 88 citizens in the October 2002 terrorist attacks on the Indonesian resort island of Bali, a popular vacation spot for Australians.

“We must quarantine the terrorists from weapons of mass destruction, and we must quarantine those who would provide them such weapons from the rest of the world,” Mr. Schieffer said.

New Spanish envoy

Spain has decided upon a veteran diplomat to serve as its next ambassador to the United States, but no formal announcement has been made, a Spanish Embassy source said yesterday.

Former Foreign Minister Carlos Westendorp, 67, is expected to be named to the post. He also has served as ambassador to the United Nations and is a member of the European Parliament from the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party.

Mr. Westendorp will arrive in Washington even as some administration officials remain angry over the decision of socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero to withdraw Spanish troops from Iraq.

Mr. Westendorp will replace Ambassador Javier Ruperez, who is going to the United Nations to serve as assistant secretary-general for counterterrorism programs.

Saudi danger

Saudi Arabia will remain a dangerous place for “some time,” but the United States will do all it can to help track down terrorists who are targeting the kingdom, according to the U.S. ambassador there.

“Good work is being done by the Saudis,” Ambassador James Oberwetter said this weekend, after Saudi security forces killed terrorists suspected of beheading American aeronautics engineer Paul M. Johnson Jr.

“We are cooperating with them in the efforts to overcome terrorist threats here, but it will be some time before we achieve a comfort level that the situation has returned to normal,” he said.

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

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