- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Re-energizing Bosnia

The foreign minister of Bosnia is in Washington this week to try to refocus Washington’s interest in the Balkans, as his country struggles to reform its constitution and adopt policies that will ensure membership in the European Union and NATO.

“I’m here to try to re-energize American leadership in the American-Bosnian partnership,” Sven Alkalaj told Embassy Row yesterday, as he prepared for meetings with administration officials and members of Congress.

Mr. Alkalaj knows where to get the attention for his country because he is an old Washington hand, having served as Bosnia’s ambassador here from 1993 to 2000.

The foreign minister said his nation, formally known as Bosnia-Herzegovina, has outgrown the cumbersome entity created by the 1995 Dayton accords, which ended three years of ethnic warfare that included gruesome massacres and widespread barbarity. The accords divided Bosnia along ethnic lines, creating a Bosnian Serb republic and a Muslim-Croat federation that today function with more autonomy than the national government.

Mr. Alkalaj said the national government elected in October is committed to constitutional reform that will make Bosnia more acceptable to EU requirements.

“We have to create something more efficient and less costly,” he said. “Twelve years after the war, it is time to move on to a more democratic process.”

Mr. Alkalaj cited progress in many areas but added that the level of corruption is still a problem and the country needs a strong national police force.

“I consider Bosnia a success story, but it is still incomplete,” he said.

The government’s goal is to keep the two ethnic republics, while amending the constitution to increase the responsibilities of the national government by 2010. He hopes those reforms will satisfy the European Union.

“Bosnia is in Europe. It belongs in Europe, and should be in Europe as soon as possible,” he said.

His meetings this week include talks with R. Nicholas Burns, undersecretary of state for political affairs, Daniel Fried, assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, Judy Ainsley, senior director for European affairs at the National Security Council, Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Democrat and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Rep. Tom Lantos, California Democrat and chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Israel honors King

The Israeli ambassador grew up inspired by the American civil rights struggle led by Martin Luther King and his wife, Coretta Scott King.

“They made the world a better place, and we think made all of us better human beings,” Ambassador Sallai Meridor said as he planted a tree in remembrance of Mrs. King at the Faith Tabernacle Church in Washington.

Mr. Meridor announced that the tree is only a symbol of a gesture his country is making to commemorate Mrs. King. Israel plans to plant 10,000 trees in her memory in an area of the country devastated last year by the war against the terrorist Hezbollah militias in Lebanon.

He said the area will be dedicated as the Coretta Scott King Forest. Israel also has a forest named for King, who was assassinated in 1968.

Two members of the Congressional Black Caucus, Rep. Alcee L. Hastings, Florida Democrat, and Rep. Artur Davis, Alabama Democrat, joined Mr. Meridor in the tree-planting ceremony at the church.

“Jews and blacks share a common historical bond of persecution and perseverance,” Mr. Hastings said.

The Jewish National Fund, a nonprofit organization, created the forest for King in 1976 and is supporting the one named for his widow, who died last year.

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

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