- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Croatian caucus

Croatia gained a valuable ally with the establishment of a congressional caucus devoted to the Balkan nation’s efforts to join NATO and the European Union.

Vladimir Seks, speaker of the Croatian Parliament, congratulated Reps. George P. Radanovich, California Republican, and Peter J. Visclosky, Indiana Democrat, the caucus co-chairmen, who recruited 41 other House members to form the Croatia bloc last week.

“In my view, the establishment of a Congressional Croatian Caucus signifies an important and concrete step toward further strengthening and promotion of political, economic, cultural and other relations among the two friendly countries as the United States of America and the Republic of Croatia,” Mr. Seks said.

He noted that the “primary task” of the caucus is to support Croatia’s goals of joining the European Union and the Atlantic military alliance.

“Together with more than 2 million American citizens of Croatian descent, I wish to believe that the Congressional Croatian Caucus shall be a powerful resource in strengthening our mutual relations and encouraging American business people to invest in the Croatian economy, the high potential of which has not been used sufficiently so far,” Mr. Seks said.

Also last week, Croatian Culture Minister Bozo Biskupic signed an agreement with the United States that commits his government to protect historic sites, religious buildings, cemeteries and memorials.

The caucus co-chairmen joined Mr. Biskupic, Croatian Ambassador Neven Jurica and Mario Zubovic, a member of the Croatian Parliament, at the White House signing ceremony.

Mr. Biskupic said his country was responding to concerns raised by American Jews about the destruction of the Jewish heritage in Croatia.

Warren L. Miller, chairman of the U.S. Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad, said Croatia “recognizes and is committed to protecting the rights of its ethnic and religious minorities.”

Korean diplomacy

The U.S. ambassador to South Korea yesterday insisted that the Bush administration is committed to diplomatic efforts to get the Stalinist North Korean government to return to talks on its nuclear weapons program.

“We are very dedicated to trying to find a diplomatic solution. We are very dedicated to the six-party process,” Ambassador Christopher Hill told reporters at a breakfast meeting in Seoul.

The United States has rejected bilateral talks with North Korea and called for a resumption of the talks involving representatives from Washington, both Koreas, China, Japan and Russia.

President Bush this week named Mr. Hill as his special envoy to the six-party talks.

North Korea pulled out of the talks last week, blaming Washington for creating “very big obstacles.”

The State Department said Monday that it would not offer North Korea any incentives to return to the talks, and accused it of involvement in drug trafficking, counterfeiting and secretly spreading weapons technology to rogue states.

Case against Putin

A Russian human rights advocate denounced Russian President Vladimir Putin for a deterioration of basic rights in their country.

Lyudmila Alekseeva, founder and chairwoman of the Moscow Helsinki Group, reported on the condition of human rights in Russia when she addressed Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Washington last week.

“The whole spectrum of civil rights ” civil, political, social and economic ” is worsening across all strata of society,” she said.

She added that Mr. Putin, a former Soviet KGB official, “actually does not know how to be democratic.”

The Moscow Helsinki Group is one of many human rights watchdog groups associated with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

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

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