- The Washington Times - Friday, January 12, 2001

Working with Spain

Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright yesterday signed a comprehensive agreement with Spain, pledging joint cooperation to strengthen defense, fight terrorism and even promote the Spanish language in the United States.

"This is surely one of the last official documents that I sign," Mrs. Albright said at a ceremony in Madrid with Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Pique.

Mrs. Albright told Mr. Pique, "It's difficult to leave this post, especially with wonderful colleagues like you."

In the spirit of cooperation, he returned the compliment, calling her an "excellent secretary of state … [with] imagination and intellect."

Mrs. Albright stopped briefly yesterday in Madrid on the first part of her final visit to Europe as secretary of state. She later flew to Paris.

Under the agreement signed with Spain yesterday, the U.S. secretary of state and Spanish foreign minister plan to meet at least once a year.

More presidential and ministerial meetings are also envisioned.

The United States and Spain pledged to "build on their high-level counterterrorism dialogue" and to negotiate an updated extradition treaty.

"The two parties, working together, will seek to deny safe haven and material support to international terrorist networks [and] … to exchange information and cooperate in the fight against drug trafficking, environmental destruction, organized crime, pandemic disease, and other global threats," the agreement says.

The United States also promised to promote the study of Spanish, and Spain pledged to encourage the study of English.

Both countries also plan to cooperate on scientific, industrial, technological and economic issues.

Saudi alert

The Saudi Arabian Embassy is alerting Washington that several Saudi newspapers printed unauthorized criticism of President Clinton, calling him a political "hostage" of Israel's.

The embassy, in an unusually blunt statement, issued a denouncement of the newspapers and praised Mr. Clinton for his efforts to achieve a Middle East settlement.

Articles in the Al-Riyadh, Al-Jazeerah and Al-Watan newspapers "include implications that do not conform with reality and have reached the point of subjective prejudice," said a Saudi Foreign Ministry statement issued by the embassy.

The "kingdom of Saudi Arabia wishes to affirm that what was published in the above-mentioned newspapers does not in any way reflect the official view of the government," the statement said.

Al-Riyadh, for example, said Mr. Clinton had become "hostage to Israeli advisers, ministers, ambassadors and businessmen."

The Saudi government said it "greatly appreciates" Mr. Clinton's efforts to reach a settlement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"Although not successful, this does not minimize the importance of his efforts, the failure of which was caused by Israel's intransigence," the government said.

U.S. snubbed

Michael Kozak, the American ambassador to Belarus, knows firsthand about authoritarian leaders, having earlier served as head of the U.S. Interests Section in Cuba.

So it was a natural comparison, when he recently described Belarus, run by thuggish President Alexander Lukashenko, as Europe's Cuba.

He might have even thought it a compliment, since Mr. Lukashenko has praised communism and expressed regrets over the breakup of the Soviet Union. He has tried unsuccessfully to reunite Belarus with Russia.

But the comparison to Cuba was apparently too much.

Mr. Lukashenko was outraged and has refused to invite Mr. Kozak to a diplomatic reception on Saturday with other Western ambassadors.

"Belarus considers Ambassador Kozak's remarks as unprecedented in diplomacy," Foreign Ministry spokesman Pavel Latushenko told the Agence France-Presse news service yesterday in the Belarus capital, Minsk.

"We have not sent out an invitation to U.S. Ambassador Michael Kozak," he added.

U.S. relations with Belarus have been strained for years, as the United States has repeatedly criticized human rights violations under the Lukashenko regime.


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