- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 29, 2002

Montenegro's chance
Alexsandar Djurisic believes the time has come for Montenegro to declare independence from Yugoslavia and bring about further breakup of a country cobbled together from ashes of the Austro-Hungarian empire.
Mr. Djurisic, a member of the Montenegrin parliament, cited the downfall of Yugoslav strongman Slobodan Milosevic and public opinion polls showing a majority favor independence as "new opportunities" for one of the two remaining republics in Yugoslavia.
On a recent visit to Washington, Mr. Djurisic told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty that "the price was too high" for Montenegro to have declared independence in the 1990s when Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia and Slovenia fought bloody wars to separate from the Serbian-dominated federation.
Now Mr. Milosevic is facing war crimes charges, and a democratic government rules in Belgrade. In addition, a December poll found that more than 55 percent of Montenegrins favored independence, he said.
Mr. Djurisic said supporters of the current Yugoslav federation of Serbia and Montenegro encourage voters to boycott a proposed referendum on independence.
"That's the only way they can control their electorate. They don't trust their supporters," he said.
Mr. Djurisic dismissed critics who argued that Montenegro would not be an economically viable country.
"No one has yet claimed that remaining in the [Yugoslav] federation would improve Montenegro's economic situation. Even if such a promise were made, few Montenegrins would believe it," he said.

Afghan flag flying
Afghanistan's new leader, Hamid Karzai, yesterday presided over a flag-raising ceremony at the country's Washington embassy, a dilapidated structure symbolic of the destruction in the nation it represented.
"Let's hope that this flag will be there forever, and that the partnership between the American and Afghan people will be forever," he said.
The Afghan Embassy at 24th Street and Wyoming Avenue Northwest has been deteriorating in its posh Washington neighborhood since it was closed in 1997, a year after the Taliban took power in Kabul.
Haron Amin, the top Afghan diplomat in the United States, is conducting his ambassadorial duties from a downtown office building while repairs are made. Restoration is expected to take several months.

State of honor
Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus will have a seat of honor for tonight's State of the Union address.
President Bush invited Mr. Adamkus to listen to the speech from the guest box of House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, the Lithuanian Embassy said yesterday.
Mr. Adamkus also will meet Mr. Hastert, Illinois Republican, and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell for talks on Lithuania's efforts to join NATO.

Death of a diplomat
A former Canadian ambassador to the United States died last week after suffering from a stroke earlier this month.
Albert Edgar Ritchie, 85, served here from 1966-69, during the Johnson and Nixon administrations.
Mr. Ritchie, a career diplomat, was always concerned about Canada's "wary friendship" with the United States, his son Gordon told the Associated Press.
"He clearly understood our future was inextricably linked to the U.S., but he feared a loss of political sovereignty," Gordon Ritchie said.
In addition to Gordon, Mr. Ritchie is survived by his wife, Gwen, another son, Donald, two daughters, Heather and Holly, eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Movin' on up
The International Republican Institute (IRI) has moved to larger headquarters to accommodate a bigger staff.
"We're movin' on up," said IRI spokeswoman Idil Oyman.
After 12 years at 1212 New York Ave. NW, IRI relocated yesterday to 1225 I St. NW.
The organization has increased its staff by 30 percent and added a new division for the Middle East and North Africa.
IRI also has global expansion plans.
"For 2002, IRI plans to enter 22 new countries, which would take our reach to 50 countries around the world," Ms. Oyman said.

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