- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 13, 2001

Friend in Romania

If President Bush wants support in Europe for his missile-defense plan, Romania is there for him.

Romanian Defense Minister Ioan Mircea Pascu yesterday said he understands the U.S. desire to protect itself against missile attacks from rogue nations or terrorist organizations.

Romania, meanwhile, hopes the Bush administration understands its desire to join NATO in the next round of expansion.

Mr. Pascu told reporters that Romania would have "no objection at all" even if the United States proceeded unilaterally to develop the defense shield.

"For the U.S., I see the value in it," he said.

"Politically speaking, the moment [missile defense] gets a European dimension, Romania will have to evaluate it very seriously," he added, when asked whether Romania would want to be covered by the defensive system.

Mr. Bush, now on his first official European visit, is offering to share missile-defense technology with U.S. allies and Russia, in order to get their support.

Mr. Pascu said some European leaders dismiss Mr. Bush´s concerns about missile attacks because they want to ignore the threat.

"It is a real danger. To some, it is not because they don´t want it done," he said.

Mr. Pascu is visiting Washington to meet the new administration, members of Congress and think tanks to press Romania´s case for NATO membership. He said Romania could act as a stabilizing force in southern Europe.

"The problem in our area is that we have a generating force that produces conflict. … It is like that lethal cocktail that was injected [Monday] morning," he said, referring to the execution of Timothy McVeigh.

The international force should remain in Bosnia-Herzegovina to ensure stability, and Macedonia must be saved from the threat of rebel Albanian separatists, he said.

Romania, with a $981.5 million defense budget, is reorganizing its military of 100,000 troops, reducing its top-heavy officer corps and creating more noncommissioned officers.

Romania is also buying Western weapons and teaching the troops to speak English, he said.

Mr. Pascu met yesterday with Marc Grossman, undersecretary of state for political affairs, and Paul Wolfowitz, deputy secretary of defense.

Hopeful envoy

Martin Indyk, the U.S. ambassador to Israel, is more optimistic that Israel and the Palestinians are close to a "turning point" in the eight-month cycle of violence.

"I come before you with a little more hope then I would have had in recent days," Mr. Indyk said yesterday in a lecture at Jerusalem´s Hebrew University.

"It is possible, possible that we have reached a turning point in the violence. … There are now indications, still tentative, that the Palestinian Authority may finally be trying to take action to stop the violence, including turning off hateful incitement," he said.

Mr. Indyk added that Israel must take steps to meet the "legitimate" Palestinian demands to remove the blockade of the West Bank and Gaza Strip if the violence subsides.

"Palestinians want and have a legitimate reason to demand for lifting of closures, redeployment of Israeli defense forces to the positions they had before the crisis began, the opening of passages and the airport and the handing over of the revenues that are owed to the Palestinians by Israel," he said.

If Israel maintains the closure of the Palestinian territories, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat may not be able to ensure a cease-fire, he said.

"The current harsh restrictions that Israel has imposed on the West Bank and Gaza … cannot be maintained for long without hardening besieged Palestinians´ feelings not only against Israel, but against Arafat´s call for a cease-fire," Mr. Indyk said.

From Congo to Congo

Aubrey Hooks, a career diplomat, served as ambassador to the Republic of Congo two years ago. Now President Bush wants to send him to the other Congo.

Mr. Bush yesterday said he will nominate Mr. Hooks to serve as ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Congo, the former Zaire.

Mr. Bush also selected Frank Lavin, an international banker, to be ambassador to Singapore.

Mr. Lavin is the former co-manager of the Bank of America´s multinational corporate group for Southeast Asia and Australia. He is also served as a vice president of Citibank and as executive director of the Asia Pacific Policy Center.

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