- The Washington Times - Monday, February 20, 2006

Charm offensive

The foreign minister of Croatia charmed Washington leaders as she lobbied for support for NATO membership and presented her country as a stalwart of stability in the restive Balkans region.

“We want to be a reliable partner with the United States,” Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic told reporters last week at the Embassy of the Republic of Croatia.

She was in Washington with Foreign Ministers Besnik Mustafaj of Albania and Ilinka Mitreva of Macedonia for meetings with R. Nicholas Burns, undersecretary of state for political affairs, and members of Congress. They also met briefly with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

“We have a high stake in the stability of the region,” Mrs. Grabar-Kitarovic said of an area that was embroiled in ethnic warfare in the 1990s.

She also said Croatia “has an obligation” to cooperate with the U.N. International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, which is prosecuting war-crimes suspects mostly from Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia.

“Everyone who is indicted must face the charges in court,” Mrs. Grabar-Kitarovic said.

In the meeting, Mr. Burns, the State Department’s third highest-ranking official, praised Albania, Croatia and Macedonia for the progress they have made on political reforms and on meeting criteria for NATO membership.

He told them, however, that NATO leaders have not yet decided which countries to invite into the alliance.

“Taking into account our individual achievements in meeting standards and criteria for NATO, Southeast Europe deserves a clear signal for joining NATO,” Mrs. Grabar-Kitarovic told Mr. Burns.

She also met with Sen. John McCain to thank the Arizona Republican for his support of Croatia’s desire to join the alliance.

“For the Republic of Croatia, NATO is not only a military alliance and security mechanism, it is also a political alliance, one with commonly shared values and interests — values of liberal democracy, freedom, respect for human rights, tolerance, solidarity and free enterprise,” Mrs. Grabar-Kitarovic said in a speech to the Women’s Foreign Policy Group.

She also called on the European Union to continue to expand to include the countries of the Balkans.

“The permanent stability and progress of Southeast Europe can best be achieved by membership of all its countries in the European Union and NATO,” she said.

Beefy report

The U.S. ambassador to Japan is hoping that Tokyo soon will lift its latest ban on U.S. beef after the release last week of a report that admitted that an exporter and U.S. inspectors failed to prevent a shipment of veal chops that violated Japanese safety regulations against mad cow disease.

“The United States deeply regrets the mistake that was made by the exporter and the USDA personnel,” said Ambassador J. Thomas Schieffer, referring to inspectors for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the export firm, Atlantic Veal and Lamb.

The ambassador released the 475-page report to the Japanese press last week. He said the basic conclusion was that the exporter and the inspectors simply “did not fully understand” that meat on the bone, like veal chops, violated Japanese import regulations. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns already has “taken steps” to make sure the mistake is not repeated, he said.

“Let me stress again that we are going to provide safe, healthy meat products to the Japanese consumer,” Mr. Schieffer said. “We hope that this investigation will assure all our Japanese customers that we take their concerns seriously and intend to honor the agreement we made to open their market to American beef.”

Japan closed the market last month, a month after it lifted an earlier ban imposed two years ago. Japan is the largest U.S. market for beef exports.

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


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