- The Washington Times - Monday, November 24, 2003

Macedonia hopeful

A high-ranking delegation from Macedonia is in Washington to report on the Balkan country’s recovery from ethnic violence and to seek support for its goal of joining NATO and the European Union.

“Two years after the conflict, Macedonia is back on the right track. We are on our feet again. The security situation is normalized,” Prime Minister Branko Crvenkovski told reporters yesterday.

Macedonia, already rocked by a refugee crisis from the Kosovo war in the late 1990s, suffered a six-month ethnic-Albanian uprising in 2001. The United States, NATO and the European Union brokered a peace deal that guarantees Albanian minority rights.

Mr. Crvenkovski said the Macedonian parliament has adopted the necessary constitutional changes to protect ethnic Albanians. The remaining objective is the decentralization of political power to give more authority to local governments, he said.

The prime minister also said the economy is recovering, after plunging 4.6 percent during the conflict because of a decline in foreign trade. Today, he said, the gross domestic product is growing at 1.4 percent and inflation is at 1 percent.

Mr. Crvenkovski said Macedonia’s relationship with the United States is its highest priority, and as a sign of its friendship, his government signed an agreement to protect American soldiers from politically motivated prosecution by the International Criminal Court.

Macedonia also has deployed dozens of special forces and medical troops to help the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“We do expect a clear political message that NATO’s doors are open and that Macedonia will be part of the next round of NATO expansion,” Mr. Crvenkovski said.

Deputy Prime Minister Musa Xhaferi added, “We are very optimistic, and with our visit here, we want to strengthen our optimism.”

Foreign Minister Ilinka Mitreva arrived in Washington last week to sign an agreement with the United States, Croatia and Albania to promote stability and economic prosperity in the Balkans.

“We do not share an Atlantic border with the United States, but what we do share are common values, democracy, human rights and a market economy,” she said.

Mr. Crvenkovski is scheduled to meet today with Vice President Dick Cheney, who invited him to Washington, and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell.

New Iraqi envoy

Iraq’s Governing Council this week appointed a new ambassador to the United States who is better known in Washington than in Baghdad.

Rend Rahim Francke, executive director of the Washington-based Iraq Foundation since 1991, is expected to return here next week. Her appointment was announced in Baghdad on Sunday.

Mrs. Francke, who has not lived full time in Iraq for more than 30 years, told reporters in the Iraqi capital that her new position is an extension of her work at the foundation, “defending human rights and democracy for the Iraqi people.”

She was a fierce opponent of Saddam Hussein and an early supporter of the U.S.-led liberation of her country. However, Mrs. Francke also expressed concerns that the United States failed to plan adequately for the reconstruction of her country.

“In Washington, there was a great deal of concentration on the conduct of the war,” she told Agence France-Presse yesterday. “Unfortunately, it became clear that there was far less focus on the conduct of the postwar period.”

Mrs. Francke will operate out of a hotel suite until the Iraqi Embassy near Dupont Circle is renovated.

“My duty is to reflect the true and accurate picture of the new Iraq that we are all in the process of building,” she said.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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