- The Washington Times - Friday, August 24, 2001

Ambassador fired
Yugoslavia yesterday dismissed its ambassador to the United States because of his repeated criticism of the government in Belgrade.
Milan St. Protic, ambassador since mid-February, denounced the action as an attempt to silence him.
"It is obvious that I am replaced, not because I didn't do my job well, but because I openly spoke about things I disagree with," Mr. Protic told reporters in the Yugoslav capital, where he returned earlier this month.
He accused President Vojislav Kostunica of orchestrating his dismissal and denounced him as "the last defender of communism" in the country. Mr. Protic has complained that a large number of officials loyal to former President Slobodan Milosevic remain in the government.
Mr. Protic, a strong anti-communist, was one of the leaders of the movement that forced Mr. Milosevic from power. The ex-dictator is facing war-crimes charges before a U.N. tribunal.
Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic said Mr. Protic was fired because he "can no longer perform the important diplomatic duties."
"Even though this is a person who has a very high political profile and whom I appreciate very much, this went very far from the framework of diplomatic behavior," he added, referring to Mr. Protic's criticism of the government.
Rumors of his dismissal have been reported in the Yugoslav press for several days.
In recent interviews, Mr. Protic complained that the government was inefficient and failed to coordinate policies with its diplomats abroad.
Some Yugoslavs who favor a separation of church and state criticized him when he invited the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church to bless the Yugoslav Embassy here last month.
Mr. Protic told Embassy Row at the religious ceremony, "After 60 years of communism, it is important to reflect on our religious faith."
In Yugoslav news interviews, he dismissed government warnings that he was acting too independently and pledged to "ignore the leftists."
"If people loyal to communist principles from the past, against which I fought my whole life, are ruling this country, then it's clear there is no place for me, not only as an ambassador, but also on the Serbian political scene in general," he told a Belgrade television station this week.
No decision has been made on naming a new ambassador.

Embassy in Armenia
The U.S. ambassador to Armenia yesterday signed a deal to lease land for a new American diplomatic compound.
Ambassador Michael Lemon and Robert Nazarian, mayor of Yerevan, the Armenian capital, said the construction will cost $80 million and create thousands of jobs.
"The complex, which includes the embassy, ambassador's residence and American club will be built over three years, with the help of 7,000 Armenian workers," Mr. Nazarian said during a press conference.
The new embassy will be built on a 20-acre plot of land near Lake Yerevan, at one entrance to the city.

Sri Lankan crisis
U.S. Ambassador Ashley Wills yesterday agreed to try to mediate between political opponents in Sri Lanka, who are threatening the country's stability.
The U.S. Embassy in the capital, Colombo, said Mr. Wills urged President Chandrika Kumaratunga to form a unity government with the main opposition United National Party.
The party yesterday held a demonstration in the capital to denounce the president for shutting down the Parliament to avoid a no-confidence vote that would bring down her government.
"Ambassador Wills was asked by one political party to deliver a message to another. After reflecting on the request, and on consulting Washington, he agreed to do so," the embassy said in a statement.
"Along with many other friends of Sri Lanka, the U.S. has been concerned about Sri Lanka's political uncertainty and its possible impact on the prospects for peace and economic growth in the country."
The embassy declined to say who asked Mr. Wills to intervene.
In addition to the political crisis, Sri Lanka is struggling with a battered economy and a civil war that began in the early 1980s.


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