- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 24, 2002

Romania on 'right track'

The former spokeswoman at the Romanian Embassy and the former Romanian ambassador are practicing a little tag-team diplomacy in Washington this week.

Simona Miculescu, now foreign policy adviser to President Ion Iliescu, is visiting old friends, administration officials and members of Congress to report on Romania's progress in meeting the qualifications for membership in NATO.

Mircea Dan Geoana, the former ambassador and now foreign minister, will be in Washington on Friday.

"I am here to listen, learn and respond," Mrs. Miculescu said yesterday.

She told Embassy Row she is also reporting on Romania's progress in developing its democracy, including efforts to tackle corruption.

Romania has created the National Anti-Corruption Investigative Office, with a staff of 350, to pursue charges of official misconduct.

"Romania is on the right track," Mrs. Miculescu said.

U.S. officials have praised Romania for its progress from one of the most repressive communist regimes to a democracy poised to enter NATO, she said.

Most officials spoke encouragingly of Romania's chances of being invited to join the alliance at the November summit in Prague.

They have also recognized Romania's contribution to peacekeeping operations. Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld noted Monday that Romania is deploying an infantry battalion in Afghanistan.

Romania has also supplied peacekeepers in Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Membership in NATO "will be recognition that Romania belongs in the West," Mrs. Miculescu said, adding that 80 percent of Romanians support joining the alliance.

"This would have a fantastic psychological boost for the Romanian people," she said.

Protesting Saudi policies

Capitol Hill interns are planning a demonstration tomorrow outside the Saudi Arabian Embassy to demand the release of American women and children held against their will in the desert kingdom.

Mike Anderson, Tim Goobic and Paul Trible are organizing the rally. They are interns in the office of Rep. Frank R. Wolf, Virginia Republican.

Mr. Wolf plans to attend the protest, where the interns will attempt to deliver a letter to the embassy concerning the fate of 46 U.S. citizens in Saudi Arabia.

Mr. Goobic said more than 200 interns have signed the letter they hope to deliver to Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan.

He said they were inspired to act after learning of the fate of Amjad Radwan, now 19.

Her American mother, Monica Stowers, has been trying to get her daughter out of Saudi Arabia since 1990, but her ex-husband, a Saudi citizen, refuses to give his permission for her to leave.

Miss Radwan was born in Houston, where her mother met her father in the 1980s.

"The U.S. government respects the rights of Saudi citizens. Why can't the Saudi government respect the human rights of U.S. citizens?" the interns asked in a flier announcing their demonstration.

Mr. Goobic said the interns identify with Miss Radwan.

"This is somebody who is our age," he told Embassy Row. "We strongly believe that if we are able to make our cause known to the Saudi government and the world, something good may come from this."

Mr. Wolf last week organized a congressional letter to Prince Bandar calling for Miss Radwan's release.

The letter was signed by 39 members of the House.

"As a U.S. citizen, she has a right to return to the United States. We realize the sensitive nature of this case, but Miss Radwan's release is extremely important to us," the letter said.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Embassy in Saudi Arabia yesterday issued new procedures for visa applications, following the termination of the widely criticized Visa Express.

Saudi citizens between the ages of 12 and 70 must apply in person for permission to visit the United States.

Under the old program, they could apply through travel agents, a procedure that drew increasing opposition after September 11.

Fifteen of the 19 terrorists involved in the September 11 attacks were Saudi citizens who entered the United States on valid visas.

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