- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 9, 2003

Bush thanks Slovaks

When the Slovak ambassador presented his diplomatic credentials at the White House, President Bush expressed his personal appreciation to Slovakia for supporting the removal of Saddam Hussein, an action that defied French pressure to oppose the U.S. position.

“As soon as I introduced myself, the president warmly and spontaneously said he appreciated that ‘you are with us,’” Ambassador Rastislav Kacer said yesterday.

That recognition underscored the distance Slovakia has traveled in 10 years from a pariah nation under the former authoritarian leader Vladimir Meciar to a valued democratic member of the coalition of the willing.

Slovakia joined other Eastern European nations earlier this year to support the U.S. position on Iraq, when France was warning the smaller countries they were risking their admission to the European Union by taking an independent stand.

Mr. Kacer told Embassy Row that his country supported the liberation of Iraq because Slovaks, after more than 40 years of communism, understand what it means to live under a dictatorship.

“Slovakia has taken a position that is seen as a pro-American position, but we took the decision not on the basis of being pro-American or pro-European,” he said. “Being more European does not mean being less trans-Atlantic, and being pro-American does not mean being less European.”

Mr. Kacer pledged Slovakia’s support in the war against terrorism, when he met with Mr. Bush on Monday.

“I can assure you, dear Mr. President, that Slovakia will continue to remain a strong and reliable ally for the United States in the fight against global terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction,” he said in his prepared remarks.

Slovakia is proving its worth as an ally with the deployment of 200 military engineers in Iraq and 50 in Afghanistan, where they are also involved in the removal of land mines.

Mr. Kacer thanked Mr. Bush for his support for the expansion of NATO. Slovakia will soon join the Western military alliance, as well as the European Union.

“Your strong personal vision and leadership makes NATO relevant and stronger,” he told Mr. Bush. “This will undoubtedly have a long-term positive effect for the new members, for Europe as a whole and for the further strengthening of trans-Atlantic relations.”

Yemeni stereotypes

Yemen’s female minister for human rights dispelled some stereotypes about the role of women in her country, as she promoted her nation’s cultural heritage at a gala celebration in Washington.

Just because some Yemeni women wear garments that cover them from head to toe, they are not second-class citizens, said Amat Al-Aleem Alsoswa. Unlike in some Arab countries, women have the vote and serve in parliament.

“There is confusion between the way women dress and their level of participation in the culture of Yemen,” Mrs. Alsoswa said at the “Windows of the Cultural Heritage of Yemen” at the Freer Gallery.

“The impression is that because women are covered that means they are excluded or weak. In fact, it is the opposite. Yemeni women are very hard working, talented and participate actively in cultural life.”

Women compose up to 15 percent of teachers and students at Yemeni universities. At medical schools in the cities of San’a and Aden, 60 percent of the students are women.

“Yemen has 47 women judges in the high courts,” she said. “Women work as lawyers, teachers, in business, as pilots, among many other fields.”

Yemen is “ahead of Egypt, Syria and most Arab countries in guaranteeing constitutional rights to women, including fewer work hours for women who are pregnant or breast feeding,” Mrs. Alsoswa added.

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

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