- The Washington Times - Monday, April 16, 2001

Vilnius nine

Ambassadors representing nine European countries seeking NATO membership have found allies in a core of influential senators who are urging President Bush to support the expansion of the Western alliance at a summit next year.

They expressed their "sincere appreciation" to the 17 senators who wrote Mr. Bush on April 5. The ambassadors represent former Soviet bloc nations that met in Vilnius, Lithuania, last year to work together for the expansion of NATO and the European Union.

"We completely share your vision of Europe, whole and free in a strong alliance with North America," they said in a letter to the senators last week.

"We believe in strong U.S. leadership maintaining NATO, cohesive and growing. Our democracies have been working toward this goal since the reestablishment of our independence."

They said the earlier expansion that included Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic "enhanced the security" of Central Europe.

"We all are committed to fundamental shared values and are working to become better contributors to transatlantic security," they wrote.

"We are firmly convinced that integration of our democracies into NATO and the European Union will facilitate the creation of a free Europe."

They added that a continued commitment to an open-door policy for NATO membership is in the national interests of the United States and their countries.

"We understand how important it is that the Senate keeps this issue high on its agenda as a bipartisan priority," they said.

The letter was signed by ambassadors Petrit Bushati of Albania, Philip Dimitrov of Bulgaria, Sven Jurgenson of Estonia, Aivis Ronis of Latvia, Vygaudas Usackas of Lithuania, Martin Butora of Slovakia and Davorin Kracun of Slovenia. Goce Georgievski, charge daffaires of the Macedonian Embassy, and Bogdan Mazuru, charge daffaires of the Romanian Embassy, also signed the letter.

The senators included Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms, North Carolina Republican; Joseph I. Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat; John McCain, Arizona Republican; and Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat.

Palmer to Portugal

President Bush has selected John N. Palmer, a telecommunications executive, to be ambassador to Portugal.

"John Palmer is a telecommunications pioneer, public servant and philanthropist," Mr. Bush said, announcing his choice last week.

Mr. Palmer, chairman of GulfSouth Capital Inc. of Jackson, Miss., served the Reagan and previous Bush administrations as a trade adviser.

Diplomatic traffic

Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:

Today.

President Ricardo Lagos Escobar of Chile, who meets President Bush. Accompanied by Finance Minister Nicolas Eyzaguirre, he also will meet with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

William Maley, an Australian lawyer and expert on Afghanistan. He talks to the Afghanistan Foundation about conditions under Taliban rule.

Tomorrow.

Raul Estrada-Oyuela of the Argentine Foreign Ministry; Jan Pronk, the Netherlands minister of housing, spatial planning and environment; and Svend Auken, Denmarks minister of environment and energy. They speak at a conference on global warming sponsored by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. Mr. Pronk plans a 9 a.m. news conference Wednesday at the National Press Club.

Wednesday.

Hjalmar Arnason, a member of the Icelandic parliament, Kazuo Asakai of the Japanese Foreign Ministry, Philip Gwage of Ugandas Department of Meteorology, Jung-Sik Koh of the South Korean Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy and Vijai Sharma of the Indian Ministry of Environment and Forests. They speak at the Pew global warming conference.

Thursday.

President Fernando de la Rua of Argentina, who meets President Bush.

Friday

Wilhelm Molterer, Austrias minister for agriculture and environment, who meets Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman, Interior Secretary Gale Norton and Christie Todd Whitman, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

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