- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 19, 2002

Czech President Vaclav Havel, meeting with President Bush yesterday in the Oval Office, called on NATO to redefine its mission to confront "a new kind of evil" in the international war against terrorism.

Mr. Havel, whose nation hosts a summit of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in November, said NATO needs to target those who support terrorism.

"I think that now it would be important if NATO will [be] able to re-identify itself, to find its new identity in this very changed world. And especially now, after [the] 11th of September, I think there is a lot of a new kind of evil in this world and it is necessary to face this evil and to face all who support it," Mr. Havel said.

While the Czech leader has in the past said U.S. action in Iraq should occur only with international support, he assured Mr. Bush yesterday that the Czech Republic "is and will remain a good friend of the United States, a good ally."

Mr. Bush praised Mr. Havel, calling him "a truly remarkable person, a man who symbolizes courage and determination, and a man who loves freedom."

"Mr. President, you're a unique person who has helped change the world," said the U.S. president. "I am proud to call you friend, and my nation is proud to call the Czech Republic friend as well."

At the brief Oval Office meeting, Mr. Bush told Mr. Havel: "It's important to speak with moral clarity and when you see wrong, to speak about the wrong you see," according to White House spokesman Ari Fleischer.

During the NATO meeting this fall in Prague, members will consider requests to join by several Central and Eastern European countries, including the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, as well as Bulgaria, Romania and Slovenia.

"No final decisions yet," a White House official told the Associated Press.

"We encourage all the NATO aspirant members to continue to work on their goals laid out in the membership action plan. As the president talked about several times on his trips to Europe, there are no geographic limitations on expansion of NATO. His vision is of a Europe whole, free and at peace," the official said.

In New York, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, who meets Mr. Bush at the White House tomorrow, reaffirmed Moscow's opposition to NATO's expansion, according to Russia's Interfax news agency.

Mr. Ivanov said at a Eurasia summit that the international community should "live in keeping with the principles of the 21st century rather than old stereotypes."

Accepting new candidates would add to the three countries the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland the alliance accepted in 1999 in its first post-Cold War enlargement.

About 40 heads of state and several hundred government officials and other delegates are expected to attend the Nov. 21-22 summit.

Mr. Fleischer said Mr. Bush and Mr. Havel also talked about the Middle East.

"The president continues to believe and he talked to President Havel about this that peace in the Middle East needs to be secured by the creation of a Palestinian state, and that Palestinian state must be based on democratic principles, and have a government that represents its people," the spokesman said.

Mr. Havel appeared in ill health after the meeting. The Czech leader, whose term ends in January and who is constitutionally barred from seeking re-election, has severe respiratory problems. During a short question-and-answer period with reporters, he leaned his elbows onto his knees and spoke with labored breaths.

Mr. Havel and his wife last night had dinner at the White House.

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