- The Washington Times - Monday, March 12, 2007

South of the border

The U.S. ambassador to Mexico yesterday cited President Bush’s visit to the United States’ closest southern neighbor on the last stop of his trip to Latin America as evidence of the strength of the relations between the two countries.

“It is fitting that he has chosen Mexico as the final stop of his Americas trip,” Ambassador Antonio O. Garza Jr. wrote in the El Universal newspaper.

Mr. Bush visited Mexican President Felipe Calderon in the Yucatan Peninsula city of Merida.

“This trip will demonstrate hopes for a hemisphere that is advancing economically but continues to suffer poverty and inequality. I see Mexico as a promise for this region,” Mr. Garza said.

The ambassador, responding to criticism that the United States has ignored Latin America, insisted that the Bush administration has “remained engaged” in efforts to improve life in the hemisphere, even though those initiatives have “been eclipsed by the headlines” about Iraq and other hot spots.

Mr. Garza noted that Mr. Bush “has nearly doubled aid to the region, … promoted debt relief, expanded trade and encouraged reform and transparency in government.”

“President Bush’s trip demonstrates the U.S. commitment to advancing freedom, prosperity and the general well-being of the hemisphere’s citizens,” Mr. Garza said.

The Bush administration has announced new programs that will provide $385 million to underwrite mortgages for working families in Mexico, Brazil, Chile and in Central America, Mr. Garza said. Washington also announced $75 million for new educational and health care programs, which include sending a Navy hospital ship to 12 countries in the Caribbean and Latin America.

In addition to those efforts, the White House is planning a major conference of leaders of “civil society and the private sector to explore the most effective ways to deliver aid and develop representative institutions,” Mr. Garza said.

The ambassador called Mexico the “link between North America and Latin America.”

“The United States is fortunate to have a partner that enjoys positive relations with countries to its north and south,” he added. “Mexico increasingly serves as a model for the entire region.”

Japan hosts talks

Japan tomorrow will convene a meeting of Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian officials in Tokyo to try to promote “peaceful co-existence” in the Middle East, the Japanese Embassy announced yesterday.

The chief participants will be Shimon Peres, deputy prime minister of Israel, Farouk Kasrawi, a special adviser to King Abdullah II of Jordan, and Sa’eb Erekat, chief negotiator for the Palestine Liberation Organization.

“The participants will exchange views, aiming at peaceful co-existence between the Israelis and the Palestinians, on the current political situation, measures toward the revitalization of the Palestinian economy … and the possibilities of regional economic cooperation,” the embassy said.

Running with terror

Terrorists are threatening to attack long-distance runners when a worldwide race opens next week in Kenya, and the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi is spreading the alarm to Americans in the East African nation.

The embassy urged Americans to “use extreme caution” if they visit the coastal city of Mombasa, where the World Cross Country Championship is scheduled to begin on March 24. Local news reports have cited local Muslim extremists as threatening to attack the race unless Kenya releases certain suspects detained on terrorist charges.

“The U.S. Embassy is also aware of public statements by leaders of Kenya’s coastal Muslim community, threatening to disrupt, through unspecific means, the … championship if the government of Kenya does not satisfy various demands,” the embassy said.

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

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