- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Expulsion threat

Kyrgyzstan, a Central Asian nation that hosts a major U.S. military air base, is threatening to expel two American diplomats for “inappropriate” contacts with nongovernmental organizations, the U.S. Embassy said yesterday.

The embassy denied that the diplomats engaged in any unauthorized behavior and said such “allegations are clearly in the interests of those who would wish to harm” relations between the two countries. The embassy did not identify the diplomats.

“U.S. diplomats have been accused of having inappropriate contact with the leaders of nongovernmental organizations,” the embassy said. “This can be seen as an attempt to intimidate embassies and silence the voice of civil society.”

Kyrgyzstan is trying to renegotiate the lease for use of the air base, which supplies operations in Afghanistan. The government wants to raise the rent to $200 million a year from the current $2 million.

The State Department notes that human rights conditions have improved in Kyrgyzstan since President Askar Akayev fled the country after massive demonstrations and former Prime Minister Kurmanbek Bakiyev was elected last year.

Slovenian anger

Outraged readers from around the world accused Embassy Row of insulting the entire country of Slovenia because a column last week called it a “Balkan nation.”

E-mails came from readers with Slovenian heritage in Ohio, West Virginia, the Australian city of Sydney and the Canadian cities of Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. The offended writers included Edward Gobetz, director of the Slovenian Research Center of America; Branko Maligec, president of the Slovenian Canadian Association of Manitoba; and Vinko Rizmal, director of the Slovenian Australian Agency for Trading and Cultural Exchange.

All of the readers said Slovenia is a Central European nation, not a Balkan one, and U.S. officials agree.

That message, however, has not reached several other authorities, including the Encyclopedia Britannica, the American Heritage Dictionary and Columbia University. Even Britain’s Prince Charles thought he was in the Balkans when he visited Slovenia in 1998.

Embassy Row called Slovenia a Balkan nation Friday in a preview about this week’s visit to Washington by Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa. The description was intended as a geographical one, not as an insult.

Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel was not upset.

Asked at a dinner Monday night whether Embassy Row had offended his nation of 2 million people, he responded, “Of course not.”

Mr. Rupel explained that Slovenians “like to be called Central Europeans” because of the Balkans’ association with the political turmoil, ethnic cleansing and genocide during the 1990s on the Balkan Peninsula in southeast Europe.

However, educating the rest of the world appears to be a difficult task.

The Encyclopedia Britannica says, “The Balkan states include Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, continental Greece, Macedonia, southeast Romania, Serbia, Montenegro, Slovenia and European Turkey.” The Columbia University Press draws a line through the southern part of Slovenia to designate the northern border of the Balkans.

The Washington Post called Slovenia part of the “six-republic Balkan federation” of Yugoslavia in a 1991 article about Slovenia’s declaration of independence. As recently as April of this year, a report by the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. included Slovenia among the Balkan countries.

In 2003, Lt. Col. Klaus-Peter Koschny of the German Mission to the United Nations wrote about a visit to the headquarters of the International Trust Fund for Demining and Mine Victims Assistance in “Slovenia, the only mine-free country in the Balkans.”

As for Prince Charles, his Web site (www.princeofwales.gov.uk) says that in November 1998 he visited “several countries in the Balkans: Slovenia, Romania, Bulgaria” and Macedonia.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail [email protected]washingtontimes.com.

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