- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 23, 2001

Baltics to Black Sea

Romanian Prime Minister Adrian Nastase arrives in Washington next week to report on his country's progress in its drive to join NATO and to express Central Europe's support for the war against terrorism.

His three-day trip, beginning Oct. 30, will be the most extensive visit by a Central European leader since the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Romanian Ambassador Sorin Ducaru said yesterday.

Mr. Nastase will meet Vice President Richard B. Cheney, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, other administration officials and congressional leaders.

His schedule is not yet finalized because it is "being affected by the anthrax scare," Mr. Ducaru said.

In a major speech at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, Mr. Nastase will "express the solidarity" of Central Europe and discuss how nations "from the Baltics to the Black Sea" that are not NATO members "are acting as de facto NATO allies" in the fight against terrorism, Mr. Ducaru said.

He said all of those nations have offered some help in the U.S. campaign in Afghanistan. Romania has provided refueling areas for U.S. aircraft.

Mr. Nastase will also report on a declaration adopted by 10 Central European nations at a summit meeting in Sofia, Bulgaria, Oct. 5 that condemned the terrorist attacks as a "threat to the whole word."

The declaration also said the attacks make a stronger case for the expansion of NATO.

"The lesson we draw from the terrorist attacks in the United States is that the security of America and Europe is more intertwined than ever before and that the Atlantic alliance and its enlargement are more important than ever," the declaration said.

Mr. Ducaru said the prime minister will also discuss Romania's military reforms, which include higher defense spending and a reorganization of the army to reduce its top-heavy officer corps inherited from the communist era.

Mr. Nastase, a social democrat committed to a market economy, represents a "new generation of leadership," the ambassador said.

Romania is one of the leading nations considered as likely candidates for NATO expansion.

After his Washington visit, Mr. Nastase will travel to New York to meet Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and visit "ground zero" at the remains of the twin towers.

Suspicious letter

The U.S. Embassy in Kuwait has received a suspicious letter in the first anthrax scare to hit the Persian Gulf country, but a Kuwaiti official dismissed it as a "childish prank."

An embassy official yesterday said the U.S. mission on Sunday received a "piece of mail that caused concern," Agence France-Presse reported.

A Kuwaiti newspaper said the embassy sent the letter to the U.S. Army base of Camp Doha in Kuwait for tests.

Foreign Minister Sheik Sabah Ahmad Sabah said the powder will likely turn out to be flour or some other harmless substance.

"We found just one envelope that had a powder, but I believe that this is a childish prank, but now they are determining that," he told reporters outside parliament.

Powder not anthrax

White powder in a letter to the U.S. ambassador to Fiji turned out to be harmless, an American Embassy spokesman said yesterday.

The letter, which was mailed within the South Pacific island nation, set off an anthrax scare within the embassy but the powder "tested negative" for the potentially deadly substance, said spokesman Nirmal Singh.

Embassy staff suspected anthrax after powder spilled from an envelope during mail sorting last week.

Embassy employees who came into contact with the letter were given antibiotics, but the embassy remained open.

Memorial trees

The U.S. ambassador to France yesterday dedicated a grove of American trees on the grounds of the palace of Versailles in the memory of the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Ambassador Howard Leach planted a holly from Delaware, one of 50 trees from each state in the union.

The gift was originally planned as part of an international effort to help replant the Versailles estate, which lost 10,000 trees in a devastating storm in 1999.

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