- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 13, 2006

Rio Group worried

The war in Lebanon and trade disputes between the United States and the European Union disturbed governments in Latin America and the Caribbean, according to a former senior ambassador in Washington.

Odeen Ishmael, who served 10 years as Guyana’s ambassador here, said his region might be geographically far from those conflicts, but the fallout from the Middle East and trade wars has caused diplomatic distress.

Mr. Ishmael, now Guyana’s ambassador to Venezuela, noted in a recent newspaper article that many Latin American countries have sizable minorities from Middle Eastern countries.

“As the Middle East cauldron bubbles over, South American countries, many of which have large groupings of citizens of Middle East origin, are understandably in no mood to see the violence escalate in the current Israeli-Lebanese conflict,” he said.

The 20-member Rio Group, chaired by Guyana, called last month for a cease-fire in the Lebanon war and denounced Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based terrorists who seized two Israeli soldiers last month, triggering the conflict.

“A statement issued by Guyana on behalf of the group condemned the attacks being carried out by Hezbollah on Israeli population centers and the disproportionate retaliatory use of force by Israel,” said Mr. Ishmael, the senior Latin American ambassador in Washington before his reassignment in November 2003.

The Rio Group also expressed disappointment over the collapse of the later round of global trade talks because of the dispute over U.S. and EU farm subsidies.

“These crucial [World Trade Organization] issues are of great concern to the small and vulnerable economies in the WTO talks,” he said.

Mr. Ishmael added that the Rio Group has “always stated the large and developed countries, not the poor and less developed, must make concessions in the WTO.”

The Rio Group comprises Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela.

Canadian flights

Canada immediately adopted tough airline-security measures similar to those imposed in the United States and Britain after the disruption of the latest terrorist plot, the Canadian Embassy said.

The new measures prohibit passengers on Canadian flights from carrying any gels or liquids, with the exception of parents with babies who carry formula or other drinks for the infants, the embassy said.

“Canadians traveling in [Britain], North America and Europe can expect some delay related to the increased security measures in all airports,” the embassy said.

It also issued a statement by Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day, who explained that his government coordinated the response with U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and British Home Secretary John Reid.

“Our officials are working closely with officials in [Britain], the U.S. and other allies to protect the safety and security of Canadians,” Mr. Day said.

Diplomatic traffic

Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:


• Lt. Gen. Moshe Yaalon, former chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, who holds a 3:30 p.m. briefing in Room 188 of the Russell Senate Office Building to discuss Israel’s war with Hezbollah in Lebanon. The Endowment for Middle East Truth is sponsoring the briefing for congressional staffers and administration advisers.


• David Fleischer, a Brazilian professor and editor of the weekly newspaper Brazil Focus. He joins an Inter-American Dialogue panel discussion on the prospects of opposition candidate Geraldo Alckmin defeating Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail [email protected].

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