- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 6, 2005

Threat in Manila

The U.S. Embassy in the Philippines closed its doors to the public yesterday after receiving a bomb threat over a cell phone.

The embassy’s action raised new concern about the Islamic terrorist threat in the Philippines only days before a top Philippine official is due in Washington for talks on issues that will include the war on terrorism.

“We got some information, and we thought that the sources were credible enough to merit the closing of services of the embassy,” spokesman Matt Lussenhop told reporters in Manila.

The embassy’s Web site (https://manila.usembassy.gov) warned Americans in the Philippines to “observe vigilant personal security precautions and to remain aware of the continued potential for terrorist attacks against Americans, U.S. or other Western interests.”

The embassy spokesman gave no further details, but Manila police sent a bomb squad to the diplomatic compound. One report said the embassy received the threat over a mobile phone text message from someone identified only as “Evita.”

The Philippines has been battling several Muslim terrorist groups, including Jemaah Islamiyah, the Abu Sayyaf group and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. One terrorist official told Reuters news agency that “it appears” those groups are “preparing for an offensive.”

In Washington, the Philippine Embassy is preparing for the visit tomorrow of Cabinet Secretary Ricardo L. Saludo, who will hold talks with Eric John, deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs.

“The Philippines is one of America’s reliable front-line allies in Asia in the war on terror,” the embassy said in announcing Mr. Saludo’s visit.

It noted that Philippine counterterrorism authorities “neutralized 183 terrorists, including 156 Abu Sayyaf [members] and four Jemaah Islamiyah terrorists” between March 2004 and October of this year.

Mr. Saludo is also due to speak at a luncheon meeting of the U.S.-ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Business Council and meet with officials of the American Chamber of Commerce, Export-Import Bank and International Monetary Fund.

Philippine Defense Secretary Avelino Cruz met yesterday in Washington with Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld.

Sunnis encouraged

The U.S. ambassador in Iraq is encouraging Sunni Arabs to vote in next week’s elections for the country’s first democratic government.

“Iraq is going through a difficult transition process,” Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad told reporters on a visit to Istanbul earlier this week.

“For Iraq to succeed, it needs the participation of all communities of Iraqis in the upcoming elections.”

A majority of Sunnis boycotted the January elections for an interim parliament but have been forming political coalitions to run in the Dec. 15 elections.

“I have told the Iraqi leaders that the U.S. is committed to work as hard as we can to ensure the participation of all Iraqi groups, especially those who did not participate in previous elections, in the upcoming elections,” Mr. Khalilzad said.

The ambassador was in Turkey on Sunday for talks with Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul and Tareq al-Hashimi, a leader of the Iraqi Islamic Party who represented Sunnis in the talks on election preparations.

Roads to freedom

Twenty-five years ago, Lech Walesa challenged communist forces in Poland with the establishment of Solidarity, the first independent trade union behind the Iron Curtain.

Next week, the Polish Embassy and the John Paul II Cultural Center are celebrating the anniversary with a photo and video exhibition that is open to the public.

The exhibition at the cultural center, 3900 Harewood Road NE, is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, except for Sunday, when it opens at noon. It is closed on Monday.

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

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