Sharansky presents awards on first U.S. trip as minister

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WASHINGTON — The joint U.S.-Israel Science and Technology Commission has presented its first Yitzhak Rabin and Ronald Brown awards.

The awards, established in memory of the late Israeli prime minister and U.S. commerce secretary, are presented to individuals or organizations who "promote economic and technological collaboration between the United States and Israel and promote the regional peace process," which are the commission's goals.

The ceremony brought Natan Sharansky, Israel's new minister of industry and trade, to Washington for the first time in his new role.

Sharansky, the onetime Prisoner of Zion who symbolized the Soviet refusenik movement while jailed in the gulag, heads the commission with U.S. Secretary of Commerce Mickey Kantor.

Businessman and former Israeli air force Chief Dan Tolkowsky, hailed by Sharansky as "the father of the high technology industry in Israel," received the Rabin award.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration received the Ron Brown award for its work promoting standardization of food and drug regulations throughout the Middle East region.

The FDA had also invited Palestinian and Jordan representatives to participate in its programs.

The Rabin award "is one of the modest contributions we Israelis can make" in memory of "a great leader who united the nation in his life and his death," Sharansky said.

The Israeli minister also announced the planting of an Israeli forest in memory of Brown, who was a commission founder and who died in an April plane crash in the former Yugoslavia.