- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 3, 2001

Promoting stability

Ivan Baba rejects criticism of NATO from those who blame the alliance for the turmoil in Macedonia.

"It's not a failure of NATO," Mr. Baba, Hungary's state secretary for foreign affairs, said yesterday. "The problem of Macedonia was not created by NATO."

Some critics have accused NATO of fueling an uprising in Macedonia by ethnic Albanians, whom they say were encouraged by NATO's success in stopping the ethnic cleansing of Albanians in the Yugoslav region of Kosovo.

"It is a misunderstanding," Mr. Baba said. "NATO stopped the spread of the crisis in Kosovo. It is trying to stabilize the situation."

Mr. Baba, whose country was admitted to the alliance in 1999, is in Washington to spread the message that NATO has brought stability to Central Europe and another round of expansion is needed to enlarge the security blanket of the alliance.

Mr. Baba, who met reporters yesterday at the Hungarian ambassador's residence, has meetings planned with the State Department, the National Security Council and members of Congress.

He is accompanied by deputy foreign ministers Pavel Telicka of the Czech Republic, Andrzej Ananicz of Poland and Jan Figel of the Slovak Republic.

Slovakia, which had an authoritarian government at the time of the 1999 NATO expansion, was the only one of the original "Visegrad Four" that failed to win a seat in the alliance.

Now, with a pro-Western government, Slovakia is considered a likely candidate for membership.

Mr. Baba expects NATO to decide soon on whether to hold another round of expansion.

Most observers believe NATO will decide to meet next year in the Czech capital, Prague, to choose new members.

The four countries sent their representatives to Washington this week to mark the 10th anniversary of their original meeting in Visegrad, Hungary, where fresh from the collapse of communism they pledged to work together for membership in Western institutions.

Their NATO experts have met regularly in European capitals since 1991, but this is their first meeting in Washington.

"The message of our presence here is that another enlargement of NATO is necessary," he said.

The United States "has a special role" in promoting stability in Southern and Southeastern Europe, he said.

Mr. Baba declined to speculate on which new countries would be invited into NATO.

"The question is not to fix the names of the countries. Our main task is to leave the door open," he said.

Hungarian Ambassador Geza Jeszenszky added, "The objectives of Visegrad are to prepare these countries to meet the challenges of [Western] integration and to provide a useful framework to achieve that goal.

"These countries each have sound trans-Atlantic credentials and want to participate in the building of a Europe that is a strong and reliable partner and ally of the United States."

Focus on Africa

A new foreign policy group is urging the Bush administration to put African issues "at the top" of its diplomatic agenda.

"Africa's real liberation demands our support more than ever. Africa is central to the global and national struggle against racism and injustice," said the Rev. Wyatt Tee Walker in announcing the formation of Africa Action.

Mr. Walker, president of the board of directors of the new group, was a top aide to Martin Luther King as executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He is now senior pastor of the Canaan Baptist Church in the New York City neighborhood of Harlem.

Salih Booker, executive director of Africa Action, said, "Africa should be at the top of the U.S. foreign-policy agenda."

Mr. Booker added that the AIDS epidemic and "the failure of peacekeeping" operations "have their most devastating consequences in Africa."

"These vital challenges must be addressed in Africa in solidarity with Africans, but Washington continues to practice an international version of Jim Crow, reserving its diplomacy and resources for its rich European cousins while ignoring its African roots at its own peril."

Africa Action was former by the merger of the Washington-based Africa Policy Information Center and the New York-based American Committee on Africa and the Africa Fund.

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