- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 23, 2005

France ‘normal’

French Ambassador Jean-David Levitte insisted this week that the rioting that racked Paris and other towns for three weeks had nothing to do with Islam, even though the violent protests broke out in predominately Muslim neighborhoods.

“We are back to normal,” he told a Washington forum organized by the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Muslim Public Affairs Council.

Mr. Levitte said the teenagers responsible for torching thousands of vehicles and injuring dozens of police officers were angered by a lack of economic opportunities, the Associated Press reported.

“It was not about the role of Islam in France,” he said. “We never saw any link, direct or indirect. Religion played no role.”

Mr. Levitte conceded that poverty in the Muslim communities is a breeding ground for Islamic terrorists.

“We know that jihadists are recruiting teenagers, but this has nothing to do with the general unrest in those neighbors,” he said, adding that the young people there “want full equality.”

India anxious

Indian Ambassador Ronen Sen is worried that Congress could undermine a “finely balanced” agreement with the Bush administration to provide India with U.S. civilian nuclear technology.

Mr. Sen told Reuters news agency that several members of Congress have questioned the agreement because of suspicions over India’s nuclear weapons program.

Under the deal, India would agree to identify civilian and military nuclear facilities and open the civilian ones to inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Mr. Sen cautioned that any tinkering with the agreement could scuttle the whole arrangement.

“If there’s any loading on of what are seen to be additional obligations or changes, it could cause a sort of imbalance [and] undermine the very basis of the agreement, [which is] finely balanced in terms of reciprocal obligations and benefits,” he said.

Mr. Sen dismissed concerns that India would fail to meet its responsibilities under the deal.

“Since independence, we have never, ever, violated an agreement,” he said. “We proceed with due deliberation; and when we undertake a commitment, we keep to that commitment.”

No deal?

The United States hopes Spain will drop plans to sell Venezuela sensitive military equipment that relies on U.S. technology, the American ambassador in Madrid said yesterday.

Ambassador Eduardo Aguirre noted that Spain will need U.S. approval to sell four patrol boats, four warships, 10 C-295 transport planes and two naval surveillance planes.

He said the Bush administration fears that the sale could destabilize the region, where Venezuela’s left-wing president, Hugo Chavez, is sounding increasingly militant.

“Those air or naval platforms include U.S. technology. We have not yet decided whether or not to grant our permission for obtaining that technology,” Mr. Aguirre said in a forum in Madrid.

“We hope, in the end, that the transaction will not be carried out. We’re worried that the sale could be a destabilizing factor in the region.”

‘Dangerous course’

The Bush administration is asking Russia and China to put pressure on Iran to abandon its efforts to develop nuclear weapons.

“It is our hope that the engagement of other countries — like Russia, like China — will make it more likely that the leadership in Iran listens to the international community and shifts off the dangerous course it’s on,” Gregory Schulte, the U.S. ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, said this week.

He added that the board of directors of the 35-nation agency will meet today in Vienna, Austria, to discuss Iran’s failure to open its nuclear program to international inspections.

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

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