- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 16, 2005

A grateful Pakistan

The Pakistani ambassador predicts that the quick and generous U.S. response to the earthquake that devastated his country last month will boost relations between the United States and its key South Asian ally in the war on terrorism.

“We can see the American Chinook [helicopters] flying over the devastated areas. We know that the U.S. medical center is one of the biggest for the victims. Your help has been very visible back home and I think it promotes a very positive image of the U.S.,” Ambassador Jehangir Karamat told our correspondent, David R. Sands.

President Bush last week announced that U.S. relief aid to the victims of the Oct. 8 earthquake now totals $156 million, with American military forces playing a critical role in clearing roads, delivering aid and providing transportation and care for the wounded and homeless. At least 73,000 people are believed to have died from the quake.

Undersecretary of State Karen Hughes and a group of top-level U.S. business leaders arrived in Pakistan on Monday to survey the devastation and to assure Pakistani leaders of continued U.S. support.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf yesterday made a direct appeal for more contributions at the international donors conference set for Saturday in Islamabad. Gen. Musharraf said Pakistan will need an estimated $5.2 billion to recover, encouraging donor countries to adopt individual communities and areas within the quake-affected region.

While the ambassador said U.S.-Pakistani relations are strong, Mr. Karamat said the U.S. response to the earthquake could have the same favorable effect on popular Pakistani attitudes that the U.S.-led tsunami relief efforts had in Indonesia, Sri Lanka and other affected countries earlier this year.

He said the presence of American business executives in the Hughes delegation is important because Pakistan’s top priority is not aid but investment and economic growth. After years of lagging behind the other “Asian tigers,” Pakistan is projecting economic growth of 6 to 8 percent over the next five years, even factoring in losses caused by the earthquake.

A critical piece in that long-term development strategy is a controversial pipeline to Iran, which the ambassador acknowledges is not a popular idea in Washington. He said technical estimates indicate the Iranian pipeline is the most efficient way to supply both Pakistan and India, and he said he tells his U.S. counterparts that planning for the pipeline should proceed.

“We are very much aware of the U.S. sensitivities on this,” Mr. Karamat said. “But we also think there is an opportunity for the U.S.-Iranian situation to evolve. We are hopeful at the end of the day the situation will have evolved to the point where it is not so much of an issue.”

‘Conspiracies, plots’

The U.S. ambassador to Venezuela ridiculed President Hugo Chavez for accusing the Bush administration of everything from trying to overthrow his government to encouraging Venezuelan children to wear costumes for Halloween.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” Ambassador William Brownfield told reporters in the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, “how can I get any sleep with so many conspiracies and plots? The truth is there are many things in this world that have nothing to do with the United States.”

Responding to a question, Mr. Brownfield this week said the United States had nothing to do with the recent dispute between Venezuela and Mexico. The two countries withdrew their ambassadors after Mr. Chavez called Mexican President Vicente Fox a “lapdog” of the United States and warned him: “Don’t mess with me. … You’ll get hurt.”

Mr. Chavez has accused President Bush of planning to overthrow him and has threatened to cut off oil shipments. Venezuela is one of the top oil suppliers to the United States.

Most recently, Mr. Chavez warned Venezuelan children against dressing up for Halloween, calling it a U.S. custom and a “game of terror.”

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

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