- The Washington Times - Monday, March 19, 2001

Lithuania's progress

Lithuania's new ambassador began lobbying President Bush for U.S. support for the Baltic nation's bid to join NATO on the day he presented his diplomatic credentials at the White House.

"We are witnessing a time of great opportunity to create a Europe whole and free and to advance European integration. We hope we can translate these opportunities into new realities," Ambassador Vygaudas Usackas told Mr. Bush last week.

"That is why we look upon you, Mr. President, and the American people to lead the process of completing the unification of Europe through the subsequent enlargement of NATO at the next summit in 2002."

Mr. Usackas also reported on Lithuania's progress in the years since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

"Lithuania has established a free market and the rule of law," he said. "Its democratic institutions are functioning well and serve as the exemplary pattern for other nations in the region."

He said his country had looked toward the United States as an "inspiration" for democracy during its occupation by the Soviet Union. The United States never recognized Moscow's claims on Lithuania and continued to give diplomatic privileges to Lithuania's ambassador in Washington during the Cold War.

"Separated from the West by the Iron Curtain, the Lithuanian people have nevertheless retained their commitment and belief in the common values of free nations," Mr. Usackas said.

Saudi courtesy

Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan visited President Bush last week, but the White House declined to give any details of their meeting.

"It was a courtesy call," National Security Council spokeswoman Mary Ellen Countryman told reporters.

"There will not be a readout," she added, referring to a report on the substance of their talks.

Prince Bandar, the dean of the Washington diplomatic corps, visited Mr. Bush on Thursday, ahead of the weekend meeting of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

Praising NegropontePraising Negroponte

Ambassador John Negroponte has picked up a key supporter for his nomination to be the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

William H. Luers, a former U.S. ambassador, has pledged the support of the United Nations Association of the U.S.A., the leading nongovernmental advocate of the United Nations.

"President Bush has made a wise choice," Mr. Luers said in a statement.

"John is an intelligent, tough professional. He's a worthy successor to Richard Holbrooke in terms of energy and intellect."

Mr. Holbrooke was U.N. ambassador under President Clinton and is credited with persuading the U.N. General Assembly to reduce U.S. dues to the world body.

Mr. Negroponte is a former ambassador to Honduras, Mexico and the Philippines. He served as deputy to Colin Powell when the secretary of state was national security adviser under President Reagan.

Mr. Negroponte must build on Mr. Holbrooke's "impressive groundwork," Mr. Luers said.

Diplomatic traffic

Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:

Today

• Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori, who meets President Bush.

• Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who meets Secretary of State Colin Powell, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and CIA director George Tenet. He hold talks with President Bush tomorrow.

• Chinese Vice-Prime Minister Qian Qichen, who visits President Bush on Thursday.

• President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea, who addresses the Freedom Forum and the African Correspondents Association.

Tomorrow

• Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer.

Thursday

• Ricardo Maduro, the leading candidate in Honduras' presidential elections in November. He addresses invited guests of the InterAmerican Dialogue.

Friday

• U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who meets for the first time with President Bush.


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