- The Washington Times - Friday, March 1, 2002

Supporting children

First lady Laura Bush met Queen Silvia of Sweden over lunch yesterday to discuss their mutual interest in promoting the welfare of children.

"It was a very warm, very cordial, very relaxed affair," said Swedish Ambassador Jan Eliasson, who hosted the luncheon at his residence.

"They are role models for childhood potential and children's rights."

Mrs. Bush and the queen first met last year at a European Union summit in Sweden, where the queen discussed her worldwide effort to fund development projects for children.

Queen Silvia created the World Childhood Foundation to provide shelter for street children, help find missing children, combat sexual exploitation of children, prevent drug abuse and crime, and promote childhood education.

Mrs. Bush is well known for her advocacy of literacy programs for children.

Other guests at the luncheon included Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, Helmut Sonnenfeldt of the Brookings Institution, D.C. lawyer Lloyd Cutler, Alice Pickering, wife of former Undersecretary of State Thomas Pickering, and Franklin Forsberg, ambassador to Sweden under President Reagan.

Slovaks warned again

For the second time in two months, the United States has warned Slovakia against electing former Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar if it wants to join NATO.

Nicholas Burns, the U.S. ambassador to NATO, this week said Washington still viewed Mr. Meciar as the same authoritarian anti-West leader that killed Slovakia's chances of joining the Atlantic alliance in the last round of expansion.

"The former government, we believe, did not demonstrate a commitment to democracy and the rule of law. The United States was therefore unable to support Slovakia's candidacy to NATO in 1997 for that reason," Mr. Burns told a news conference Wednesday in the Slovak capital of Bratislava.

"There is no evidence that the leadership of the party has changed and that remains a fundamental concern of our government."

Last month, Ronald Weiser, the U.S. ambassador to Slovakia, issued a stronger warning.

"If the situation repeats itself, there will not be an invitation," Mr. Weiser said.

Mr. Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia remains the most popular political party in the Slovak Republic, as it prepares for September elections. Julia Sellers, the party's U.S. representative, said yesterday that the latest public opinion poll puts voter support at 33 percent.

She declined to comment on the remarks of the two U.S. ambassadors.

"They have the right to express the views of the American administration," she said. "But it's for the people to decide. People trust us."

Mrs. Sellers said the party has always favored NATO membership.

"People are saying, 'yes,' to Mr. Meciar. They are saying, 'yes,' to NATO," she added.

Kuwait dismisses poll

Kuwaiti Ambassador Salem al-Sabah dismissed a poll that claimed Kuwaitis opposed the war against terrorism in Afghanistan and held a negative view of Americans.

Mr. Sabah said the Gallup Poll in Wednesday's edition of USA Today didn't reflect the true feelings of Kuwaitis, who held the opposite views. He said he suspected the poll interviewed too many foreign Arab residents in Kuwait who held anti-American views. Kuwaiti nationals make up only about 45 percent of the population of 2 million.

Mr. Sabah, appearing on "Alan Keyes Is Making Sense" on MSNBC, said his government has publicly endorsed the U.S. war against terrorism and has heard no protests from Kuwaiti citizens.

"Kuwait is a free society," he said. "We have a free press. We have a parliament, and 30 percent of Kuwaiti homes are wired to the Internet.

"Now when the polls says 70 percent of Kuwaitis are against a stand my government has taken, and we have not heard a peep until this poll was published, there is something wrong."

Kuwaitis greatly appreciate the United States for liberating the country from Iraqi occupation in 1991 and have expressed their gratitude with demonstrations of support after the September 11 terrorist attacks, he said.

The poll "does not in the least correspond to the genuine Kuwaiti feelings," Mr. Sabah said.

Spy master-diplomat?

The head of Israel's Mossad secret service has emerged as a likely candidate to succeed Israeli Ambassador David Ivry.

Ephraim Halevy, who helped negotiate the 1994 peace treaty between Israel and Jordan, had been mentioned several times in the Israeli media as a leading contender for the Washington position. United Press International yesterday called him the front-runner.

UPI said Mr. Halevy would be a compromise choice and end a deadlock between Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, who have not been able to agree on a new ambassador to the United States.

Mr. Ivry has decided to return to Israel in April when his three-year posting is up.

St. Patrick's Day visit

Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern will make an early St. Patrick's Day visit to the White House this year.

He will meet President Bush on March 13, a Wednesday. St. Patrick's Day falls on the following Sunday.

The White House yesterday also announced that Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean Claude Juncker will visit Mr. Bush Wednesday.

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