Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Routine screening

U.S. security officials denied mistreating a Muslim member of the British Parliament and government minister, who said he was detained at Washington Dulles International Airport before boarding a plane to London.

Shahid Malik, minister for international development, was subjected to the same routine screening as other passengers and singled out for an additional search through a random “ticket-based” process that selects some passengers, said a spokesman for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

The spokesman insisted that Mr. Malik’s religion had nothing to do with the screening and that the entire process took no more than eight minutes. The British Embassy on Monday said Mr. Malik was detained for 40 minutes.

Spokesman Christopher White told our correspondent Audrey Hudson that TSA officials also reviewed a video of Mr. Malik’s screening.

“To ensure that all Transportation Security Administration protocols were followed, a review of surveillance video has been conducted, and [Mr.] Malik was screened in accordance to TSA regulations,” Mr. White said.

“His selection for additional screening was established on ticket-based protocols, not on who he is. All passengers may be subject to additional screening. This review also shows [Mr.] Malik’s TSA security screening took eight minutes.”

Mr. Malik had his bags searched for explosives after arriving at London’s Heathrow Airport, according to a report by the British Broadcasting Corp.

Mr. Malik visited Washington last week to speak at a forum sponsored by the British Embassy and the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University.

‘Good start’

The new U.S. ambassador to Venezuela said he had a “very good conversation” with the country’s anti- American president, Hugo Chavez, who has accused the Bush administration of plotting to overthrow him and threatened to expel the previous American envoy.

“We talked about a wide range of issues and our determination to work in some areas such as drug trafficking for the well-being of both countries and to find a way to improve relations,” Ambassador Patrick Duddy told the Globovision television station after presenting his diplomatic credentials to Mr. Chavez on Monday.

In an interview with El Universal newspaper, he added, “We had a very good conversation. I hope to work in their beautiful country for the well-being of both of our sister nations. I think it was a good start.”

Mr. Chavez repeatedly clashed with the former ambassador, William Brownfield, and threatened to expel him from the South American nation after he angered Mr. Chavez by presenting baseball equipment to impoverished children.

Venezuela is one of the top oil exporters to the United States.

Envoy on the run

The ambassador from Slovenia is fast on his feet. In fact, he might be the fastest diplomat in Washington.

Ambassador Samuel Zbogar ran in Sunday’s Marine Corps Marathon and finished the 26.2-mile course in 3 hours, 31 minutes, only about 70 minutes behind the winner.

Mr. Zbogar, a committed marathon man, raised more than $65,000 in sponsorship donations to help the physical rehabilitation of six Bosnians who were injured by land mines planted during the Bosnia war in the 1990s.

Earlier this year, the ambassador ran in marathons in Austin, Texas; Cleveland; and Knoxville, Tenn., to raise more money for the land-mine survivors.

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

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