- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 4, 2002

Encouraging words

Bulgaria and Romania got a boost in their campaigns for NATO membership with the endorsement of the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Bulgarian Ambassador Elena Poptodorova said yesterday that the support of Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Democrat, "will not go unnoticed by the administration."

"I'm grateful and appreciative of Senator Biden's public support," she told Embassy Row.

Mr. Biden said on Sunday that he had decided to endorse Bulgaria and Romania because of their support in the war on terrorism.

The senator, writing in the Los Angeles Times, said he had earlier been inclined to support only five new candidates Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia and Slovenia at the NATO summit in the Czech capital, Prague, in November.

"I now believe that NATO should extend invitations to all seven countries," he wrote. "What changed my mind are the attacks of September 11, the Romanian and Bulgarian governments' vigorous responses to them and the increasing strategic importance of both countries to the war against terrorism."

Mrs. Poptodorova noted the fortunate timing of his endorsement, coming a week before Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov visits Washington for meetings with Vice President Richard B. Cheney, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and other officials.

Mr. Parvanov will be in Washington Sept. 9-10 before traveling to New York the next day to chair the U.N. Security Council, which will open with a special session to commemorate the anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

"Bulgaria, indeed, has been very sincere in the anti-terrorism coalition," Mrs. Poptodorova said.

Mr. Biden praised Bulgaria and Romania for sharing intelligence with the United States and allowing U.S. planes to fly over the countries during the war in Afghanistan and for providing peacekeepers in Bosnia and Kosovo.

"Bulgaria allowed the temporary basing of U.S. military personnel and equipment on its territory, and Romania sent a combat unit, the Red Scorpions, to Afghanistan," he wrote.

Mr. Biden also said Bulgaria and Romania "seem more aware of threats to their freedom than are most Western Europeans and, therefore, are more willing to take the fight to terrorists outside Europe."

The "big bang" expansion of all seven countries got another boost from Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, last month during his visit to Slovakia.

"I think you are going to see the big bang [and] a bridge that goes all the way to Turkey," he said.


Swede in Guantanamo

Charles Heimbold, the U.S. ambassador to Sweden, yesterday promised he would provide the Swedish government with information about a Swedish citizen held at the U.S. naval base in Cuba.

Mr. Heimbold was summoned to the Foreign Ministry, which requested specifics about the detention of Mehdi Mohammed Ghezali, a 23-year-old Swede captured in Afghanistan and held as an "enemy combatant" along with al Qaeda and Taliban prisoners in Guantanamo Bay.

Swedish Undersecretary of State for Foreign Affairs Hans Dahlgren asked Mr. Heimbold "what [the 23-year-old] has been charged with, what the legal process is and whether private letters sent to him have arrived," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Kristina Oestergren told Agence France-Presse.


Danger in Nepal

The State Department yesterday warned Americans in Nepal that Maoists rebels may attack U.S. targets, as part of a campaign to build support for a nationwide strike that the rebels have called for Sept. 16.

"Americans and American interests may be at risk," the department said in a statement.

The rebels "have engaged in a variety of guerrilla and terrorist tactics that have endangered and in many cases brutalized civilians," the department said in an earlier travel warning issued in June.


Mission to Lebanon

A top U.S. diplomat is in Beirut today for meetings with Lebanese President Emile Lahoud and other leaders.

David Satterfield, deputy assistant secretary of state for Near East affairs, avoided reporters upon his arrival from Damascus, where he urged Syria not to support Hezbollah terrorists in their conflict with Israel.

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