Ambassador Imad Moustapha
After days of unanswered phone calls, faxes and e-mails requesting Syria’s ambassador to the U.S. explain why WorldNetDaily Jerusalem bureau chief Aaron Klein, a Jewish American, had been denied a journalist’s visa to visit Damascus, Ambassador Imad Moustapha called in to the John Batchelor Show, mid-broadcast, requesting to speak – but he refused to answer the one question Klein had for him.
Klein and Batchelor have been broadcasting from various hotspots in the Mideast this week – the edge of Gaza, the West Bank and Amman, Jordan – and had planned to broadcast from Damascus, Syria, Thursday evening.
As WorldNetDaily reported, Klein, radio host Batchelor and producer Lee Mason were told by the Syrian embassy in Amman, Jordan, that problems had been found with their visa applications. While Batchelor and Mason finally received approval to leave for Damascus, Klein was told by Syrian officials his visa may have been rejected because he is Jewish.
The Syrian embassy has been resolute in refusing to answer Klein’s request for a journalist visa or give an official explanation for a refusal. An invitation to Moustapha to appear on Batchelor’s program, broadcast from the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Amman, one of three Jordan hotels hit by al-Qaida bombing attacks last month, was ignored Thursday night. An invitation was also offered for Friday’s show.
Because the Syrian embassy never responded to the invitation, Batchelor said he wrote off a call-in appearance by Moustapha. Mid-program, however, Klein, who has been co-hosting the show, informed him Moustapha was on the phone, requesting to speak on the program.
“I wasn’t about to let him make a statement like he was at the U.N.,” Batchelor said. “I don’t bring ambassadors from terrorist countries on my show to make statements to the American people.
Calling himself “accommodating” and “generous,” Batchelor agreed to Moustapha coming on the air to answer one question.
“I didn’t want to talk about what had happened before,” said Batchelor. “I only wanted him to tell us whether he would issue Aaron Klein a journalist visa to travel in and report from Syria, yes or no.”
Batchelor said he asked Klein to pose the question to Moustapha.
“Will you issue me a journalist visa to enter Syria?” Klein asked.
Moustapha attempted to change the subject and Klein asked him again.
When Moustapha still refused to answer, Batchelor interrupted, “Mr. Ambassador, will you issue a journalist visa to Aaron Klein, yes or no?”
Moustapha’s “That’s not the question” drew a sharp response from Batchelor who told Moustapha he took his refusal as a no and terminated the call.
Moustapha, before being dropped, said, “We are a sovereign country and we have the right to decide who enters and who does not.”
Yesterday, U.S. State Department spokesman Edgar Vasquez said he had no response to the matter, other than to refer WND to the agency’s human rights report and international religious freedom report on Syria, where the nation’s poor record on those issues is “pretty clear.”
“If Syria chooses to deny somebody a visa, unfortunately, there is not much we can do,” Vazquez explained.
Pointing out that the U.S. sometimes chooses to press issues of this nature, Vazquez was asked if this case would be brought up with Damascus.
“I guess I would just say to that … Syria is aware of our concerns on these types of issues,” he said.
Vasquez said he did not know of other instances of Syria rejecting Americans because they are Jews.
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