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July 16, 2002
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U.S. Ambassador Eyes New Weapon Against Terrorism: English Teachers

by Jim Gomez, Associated Press

MANILA, Philippines (AP) - Washington might deploy of a new force against terrorism and Muslim extremism in the Philippines - American English teachers.

Aside from providing military trainers and weapons, U.S. officials want to revive a century-old tradition of sending teachers to this former American colony to help promote democratic values, Ambassador Francis Ricciardone said Monday.

Ricciardone said he would broach the idea with an education adviser of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo later in the day.

He told the Foreign Correspondents' Association of the Philippines that Osama bin Laden's al Qaida terrorist network was trying to undermine Southeast Asia by supporting local Muslim radicals.

"It's ... some kind of a franchising operation ... by having people come here, training people outside or providing funds or providing knowledge on how to make bombs and place them," Ricciardone said.

He cited the arrest in the Philippines of suspected members of the Jemaah Islamiya, a group accused of links to al-Qaida and of plotting to blow up U.S. and other Western targets in Singapore.

Ricciardone said, without elaborating, that "outside forces" have tried to promote intolerance and extremism among the Muslim minority in mainly Roman Catholic Philippines.

Philippine police officials worry foreign Muslim radicals could be using some religious schools to recruit al-Qaida sympathizers.

Teaching English to more Filipinos, and promoting democracy and the rule of law, could contribute in the war on terrorism, Ricciardone said.

It would also demonstrate that the campaign was not just about deploying "anti-terrorism Rambos," he said.

"We'd like to see if we can help maybe revive an English-language teaching program ... that's another way of fighting terrorism," he said. "We think education is very, very important to promoting and strengthening democracy and defeating the forces of radicalism."

The strategy was adopted worldwide by the U.S. government to counter communism during the Cold War, he said.

"Now, we face a new threat of extremism," he said, where Muslim radicals "teach hate, they teach that if someone is different, you should hate them and kill them."

Washington sent volunteer teachers aboard the USS Thomas to the Philippines when it became a U.S. colony in the early 1900s.

The Americans, dubbed the Thomasites, introduced the concept of American public education that eventually became the basis of the Philippine system.

The U.S. government deployed more than 1,000 U.S. military personnel to train and equip Filipinos soldiers fighting the al Qaida-linked Abu Sayyaf group in the southern Philippines.

The counterterrorism exercise ends July 31.






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