FLAG OVER TRIPOLI
U.S. Ambassador Gene Cretz presided over a flag-raising ceremony Wednesday, as the Stars and Stripes flew over an American Embassy in Libya for the first time in 30 years.
At the ceremony, he also called for easing visa restrictions on Libyans who want to visit the United States.
The flag-raising came a month after the embassy opened its visa section. Since the embassy in the Libyan capital Tripoli closed in 1979, Libyans had to travel to U.S. Embassy in neighboring Tunisia to apply for visas.
“In addition to normalizing our political relationship, rebuilding the links between the American and Libyan people is one of my fundamental goals,” Mr. Cretz told reporters at the ceremony. He added that he hopes Libya will also streamline visa procedures for American visitors.
“I’m working hard at making it easy for Libyans to visit the United States. I hope to get the same response from the Libyan government,” he said.
The new embassy, which is still under construction, is heavily guarded in the ancient Tripoli neighborhood of Jeraba.
In 1972, the United States recalled Ambassador Joseph Palmer II to protest Libya’s support for international terrorism. Washington closed its embassy seven years later, after a Libyan mob attacked the diplomatic compound.
President Reagan ordered the closure of the Libyan Embassy in Washington in May 1981; and President Bush re-established diplomatic relations in 2004 after Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi renounced his goal of obtaining weapons of mass destruction.
Mr. Cretz is a career Foreign Service officer who has served in China, Egypt, India, Israel, Pakistan and Syria.
MONEY FOR MANILA
Philippine Ambassador Willy Gaa is praising the Obama administration for increasing financial aid to the Philippines by more than $24 million and for including funds to pay for benefits for Philippine veterans of World War II.
“We deeply appreciate the increases in the budget request for the Philippines [which] gained added significance given the intense pressures on the Obama administration’s budget processes by the challenges posed by the national and global economy,” Mr. Gaa said in a report to Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo.
“The Obama administration’s increased requests to Congress for foreign assistance to the Philippines reflect its appreciation and the value it gives to the strategic partnership between our two countries.”
Mr. Romulo released the report to journalists in the Philippine capital, Manila.
President Obama proposes to increase the aid to $118.7 million for 2010 from the current level of $94.6 million.
The foreign assistance budget, which requires congressional approval, includes money for the war veterans, as well as for programs such as international military and training funds for the Philippines.
Mr. Gaa said the budget includes $198 million for benefits to Filipinos who fought with the U.S. in World War II.
“We are also very pleased to note that the funding the for … veterans remain intact for 2010,” he reported.
Mr. Romulo said the increase in aid shows the importance of the Philippines as a major U.S. partner in the region. “Our partnership is stronger, and this has benefited not only our country, but also the region,” he said.
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