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Publisher\Editor Don Canaan

                       April 24, 1996 V4, #74
All the News the Big Guys Missed

Shuttle Diplomacy Takes its Toil

By Ron Pemstein (VOA-Jerusalem)

Secretary of State Warren Christopher has returned to Israel from Syria without seeing Syrian President Hafez al-Assad on the American proposal for a ceasefire in southern Lebanon. Security concerns prevented the Secretary of State from visiting Beirut instead.

Christopher was five minutes away from leaving Damascus for Cyprus for a helicopter flight to Beirut when NATO's supreme commander, Gen. George Joulwan, advised him the Lebanese capital had become too dangerous for his planned nighttime travel. Christopher wanted to brief Prime Minister Rafik Hariri on the American proposal for a ceasefire in southern Lebanon.

State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns says Christopher arrived in Damascus 20 minutes too late to see Assad Tuesday afternoon but he will see Assad when he returns to the Syrian capital from Jerusalem this morning.

When NATO made the recommendation to Christopher to cancel the trip to Beirut, the Secretary decided not to endanger his staff and reporters that would have accompanied him to Lebanon.

US Pledges Aid to Israel

By David Gollust (VOA-Pentagon)

Defense Secretary William Perry -- in a Washington address Tuesday -- vowed to maintain Israel's qualitative military advantage in the Middle East. Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres will hold defense talks at the Pentagon early next week.

Perry says the closer the Middle East gets to a comprehensive peace, the stronger Israel's security needs to be. And he vowed to maintain Israel's military edge in the face of what he said were more desperate tactics by the enemies of peace including Hizbullah in southern Lebanon.

Addressing the Jewish Anti-Defamation League in Washington, Perry said he will hold defense talks with Peres Sunday on joint projects including lasers that could defend against the Katyusha rockets used by Hizbullah.

Pentagon officials say the Peres visit is expected to include the signing of an agreement formalizing a US commitment of an additional $200 million for Israel's Arrow anti-missile system, which could be operational in two years.

In his speech, Perry said the administration will continue using UN sanctions and other economic means to impede efforts by Iran, Iraq and Libya to obtain the know-how and materials needed to build weapons of mass destruction.

But he also said the United States is prepared -- if necessary-- to take "more drastic" measures to prevent them from acquiring nuclear, biological or chemical weapons.

The Defense Secretary described weapons efforts by the so-called rogue states as the principal threat to Mideast peace-making. But he drew a distinction between the governments of those countries and their people: "We must be very clear that the United States does not oppose Islam. We do not oppose any religion, or the people Iran, Iraq or Libya. What we oppose is extremism. Extremism dedicated to violence. Whether it be found in governments, individuals or groups. Anyone that tries to make a political tool out of the slaughter of the innocent."

Earlier this month, Perry pointedly refused to rule out military action to prevent Libya from opening a chemical weapons plant it is said to be building under a mountain southeast of Tripoli. He told his Washington audience the United States would have an overwhelming response to any country that used weapons of mass destruction against it or its allies.

American Muslims Say They're Being Discriminated Against

By Don Henry (VOA-Washington)

An Islamic advocacy group in the United States has issued a Muslim civil rights report, listing several hundred incidents of anti-Muslim bias the past year. The chief author of the study blames many of the incidents on ignorance about the Islamic religion.

Mohamed Nimer says the study was issued by the Council on American-Islamic relations on the first anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing because that act triggered a sharp wave of anti-Muslim actions.

He says for a few days after the bombing, Muslims were falsely linked to the attack, and more than 200 cases of verbal abuse or threats of violence against Muslims in America were reported. There also were a few cases of actual violence.

He says 80 more incidents have been reported during the past year. The study shows that vandalism at mosques and discrimination at the workplace both increased, although verbal abuse declined.

Most worksite cases involved employer objections to women wearing scarves over their hair while on the job -- or to men having beards and wearing a kufi, or cap, as part of their Islamic commitment. Nimer says the underlying cause of the discrimination in many cases is ignorance about the religious practices of Muslims.

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