- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 8, 2002

Meciar's NATO stand

Former Slovak Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar is trying to prove his support for his country's membership in NATO, as U.S. officials are warning Slovaks they risk being shut out of the alliance if they re-elect him.

Mr. Meciar's political party, the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia released a letter to President Bush yesterday, in which it expressed its "unanimous and irreversible resolve" to join NATO at the alliance summit in November.

"We believe that only NATO membership, based on shared values which we are determined to defend together with other members of the alliance whenever necessary, will provide to the Slovakian people and their children and grandchildren guarantees of security and sustained economic development," the party said in its letter adopted at its convention in April.

"We believe that the date of holding the NATO summit in Prague will go down in Slovakia's modern history as a day of unique significance when the effort and desire of the Slovakian people to see their country become a full-fledged member of the international community of democracies sharing the same values have been brought to a successful fruition."

The United States, however, still views Mr. Meciar as an authoritarian and anti-Western leader who sank Slovakia's chance of joining NATO during the first round of expansion, when he was prime minister in the 1990s.

Ronald Weiser, the U.S. ambassador to Slovakia, and George Robertson, the secretary-general of NATO, have warned Slovak voters against re-electing Mr. Meciar in September elections.

Mr. Weiser, in a recent speech, said, "Words alone are not enough to change our mind."

U.S. rewards Turks

The U.S. ambassador to Turkey presented awards yesterday to three Turkish officials to recognize their cooperation in the war against illegal drugs.

Ambassador Robert Pearson congratulated the chief of the Turkish police, the director-general of the customs service and the head of the operations unit of the paramilitary police, the Jandarma.

He cited their cooperation with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in an international operation that seized more than 1,000 pounds of heroin in Greece two years ago. He also noted a recent operation that resulted in the world's largest seizure of morphine.

"More recently Jandarma and DEA officials worked collaboratively on another major international drug-trafficking organization," Mr. Pearson said.

"These investigative activities paid off and led to an unprecedented 7.45-ton seizure of morphine base, the world's largest."

Saudi's rapid response

The Saudi Embassy's public relations firm knew something was coming after Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon announced he was coming to Washington with a 100-page report to deliver to President Bush.

"They telegraphed their pitch over the weekend. We figured it would have something to do with Saudi Arabia, which they are trying to keep out of the peace process," said Michael Petruzzello, chief executive officer of Qorvis Communications.

His firm swung into action after Mr. Sharon released his report at a news conference at 11 a.m. Monday. The report contained Israeli accusations that Saudi Arabia was funding Palestinian terrorism.

Mr. Petruzzello met with Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan and developed a detailed response for the news media.

At The Washington Times, foreign editor David Jones was editing a story about the Israeli accusations when he got a call from Qorvis at about 5 p.m. to alert him that Prince Bandar was going to release a statement. Within minutes, it appeared on a public relations wire service.

Yesterday Adel Jubier, foreign policy adviser to Crown Prince Abdullah, held a press conference to confront the accusations.

Qorvis' swift action was a rare example of rapid response from the Saudi Embassy and elsewhere on Embassy Row.

Prince Bandar, the longest-serving foreign ambassador in Washington, is a hard man to reach on deadline.

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