- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 12, 2002

Yugoslav envoy returns

Yugoslavia's new ambassador presented his diplomatic credentials to President Bush this week, ending a 15-month gap when the country had no envoy in Washington.

Ambassador Ivan Vujacic replaced Milan St. Protic, who was removed in August 2001 after criticizing the government of President Vojislav Kostunica. At the time, Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic said Mr. St. Protic could "no longer perform the important diplomatic duty" of ambassador to the United States.

Mr. Vujacic immediately set out to boost Yugoslavia's image in Washington. The Yugoslav Embassy distributed copies of his remarks to Mr. Bush in a closed meeting Monday at the White House.

The ambassador said Yugoslavia wanted to continue to build on its relations with the United States, pledged his country's cooperation in the war on terrorism and urged Mr. Bush to support Yugoslavia's goal of joining NATO's Partnership for Peace.

Mr. Vujacic held leadership positions in the Democratic Party of Yugoslavia, which helped remove the autocratic Slobodan Milosevic two years ago. The former president is facing a U.N. war crimes tribunal for his role in fomenting armed conflicts in the 1990s with other former Yugoslav republics that declared independence.

The ambassador praised the restoration of democracy in Yugoslavia. However, the recent elections for the presidency of the key Yugoslav province of Serbia have alarmed some observers. Two rounds of elections have been declared invalid because voter turnout fell below the required 50 percent.

"In the two years since the toppling of the Milosevic regime, the Yugoslav people have triumphed," Mr. Vujacic told Mr. Bush. "We have fulfilled our dream of becoming a democracy under the rule of law. At long last, we are pursuing the path of integration with Europe and friendship across the Atlantic."

Mr. Vujacic noted that U.S.-Yugoslav relations "have improved dramatically since the restoration of democracy in Yugoslavia two years ago."

He also underscored U.S.-Yugoslav cooperation in the removal of radioactive materials from Yugoslav scientific facilities, "ensuring that these materials are out of the reach of potential terrorists."

"As you know, Mr. President, the Yugoslav people are a proud people with a rich cultural and intellectual heritage," he said. "For us, the new millennium truly has been a fresh start.

"We have broken free from the chains of dictatorship and ideology. We in Yugoslavia are striving to achieve peace and prosperity as well as our rightful place in the family of free nations."

More on Reich

Rumors are circulating in foreign policy circles in Washington that Anne W. Patterson, the U.S. ambassador to Colombia, will be named to the post lost by Otto J. Reich, the anti-Castro diplomat who is a popular target of the left.

The Council on Hemispheric Affairs, a virulent critic of Mr. Reich, said yesterday that Mrs. Patterson could become the first woman to hold the post of assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs.

However, Cuban-American groups say the White House has assured them that President Bush will renominate Mr. Reich to the position when a Republican-led Senate convenes next month.

The Democratic-led Senate blocked Mr. Reich's nomination, and Mr. Bush named him to the post in a congressional recess appointment, which expired last month.

Mr. Reich currently is serving as a special presidential envoy for Latin American issues.

Death of a diplomat

A former Indian ambassador to the United States who also was known as India's best-known legal expert died yesterday of a heart attack.

Nani Palkhivala, 82, was ambassador here from 1977 to 1979. He died in a hospital in Bombay, after a long illness, the Agence France-Presse news service reported.

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee called Mr. Palkhivala "a lawyer par excellence."

"Palkhivala had left a profound mark with his balanced opinion, bold expression and clarity of thought on economic, cultural and other issues of national importance," Mr. Vajpayee said in a statement.

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