- The Washington Times - Monday, January 24, 2005


Envoy encourages dialogue with Cuba

MADRID — Spain is pushing a “constructive dialogue” with Cuba that has begun to yield positive results, Ambassador Carlos Zaldivar said in an interview with the daily El Pais published yesterday.

He acknowledged that Havana and Madrid still had differences over human rights, but said: “The question is how to manage those differences. There are two ways of doing it: One is to turn the differences into discord. … The other is to make them the basis for a constructive dialogue.

“This line has begun to yield positive results,” the envoy said, pointing to the recent release of Cuban dissidents jailed in a 2003 crackdown. “Spain wants to help ease the suffering [of the Cuban people] and have a dialogue with the state and all of Cuban society,” he said. Cuba announced this month it was renewing diplomatic contacts with Austria, Britain, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Portugal and Sweden.


Government appeals for worker in Iraq

SAO PAULO — The Brazilian government joined the family of a Brazilian engineer kidnapped in Iraq last week in appealing for his release as it tried yesterday to make contact with his abductors.

Joao Jose Vasconcelos was kidnapped Wednesday after his convoy was attacked near the central Iraqi city of Beiji. On Saturday, Arab satellite television said a group calling itself Saraya al-Mujahideen (the Mujahideen Squadrons) had claimed responsibility for the ambush, in which two other persons were killed.

The company for which Mr. Vasconcelos was working in Iraq, Constructora Norberto Odebrecht — hired to repair a power plant — said it had yet to hear from the kidnappers. The abduction hit a nerve in Brazil, where most people opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and most were unaware Brazilians were in that country.

Weekly notes

Vice President Zeng Qinghong of China is in Mexico City for a three-day visit that both countries hope will lead to strengthened trade ties. Mr. Zeng arrived Sunday and is to leave today. Officials from both nations hope to boost agriculture links, especially the export of Mexican avocados and Chinese apples, and deepen maritime and tourism ties. Textiles and manufacturing are also on the agenda, particularly as China’s economic growth challenges Mexico’s markets for such products. … A Canadian Muslim group is opposing the adoption of Muslim tsunami orphans by non-Muslim families, the Toronto Sun reported yesterday. The Islamic Supreme Council of Canada charges that Christian missionaries have been kidnapping Muslim children in Indonesia since the devastating earthquake and tsunami flooding of Dec. 26. “They help people in order to exploit their needs and convert them,” it said.

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