- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 27, 2008

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said today that boycotting the Summer Olympics in Beijing would be an ineffective way to address China’s “troublesome policies” and called the U.S. boycott of the 1980 games in Moscow “feckless.”

“They invade Afghanistan and the best you can think of is to boycott the Olympics and keep athletes who have been training their entire life from going and competing,” Miss Rice said of the Carter administration’s decision to protest the Soviet regime at the time.

“Who are you kidding? I do not see the benefit of boycotting,” she told reporters and editors at The Washington Times. “I do not think the boycott of the 1980 Olympics was very effective. In fact, I think it looked feckless.”

President Bush plans to go to Beijing for the Olympics in August, and Miss Rice said he will bring up China’s human rights record, its close ties with the Sudanese government, which Washington has accused of committing genocide in the Darfur region, as well as other issues of concern.

“If you go there, I do think you have an obligation before, during and after to continue to engage the regime about troublesome policies,” the secretary said.

“This is a moment of international recognition for the Chinese people, too, and I would hate to do anything that is insulting to them as well — the people, not the regime,” she said.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, on a visit to London today, said he would not rule out boycotting the Olympics opening ceremony in Beijing, depending on how the situation develops in Tibet.

France will be in the European Union president’s chair for the second half of the year, and Mr. Sarkozy said he wanted to consult with other EU leaders before deciding.

“I will refrain from saying whether or not I am going to the ceremony and whether other initiatives should be taken,” he said.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, like President Bush, has insisted he will attend the Summer Games.

In an extensive interview, Miss Rice also said that NATO should invite Croatia, Macedonia and Albania to become members at the alliance’s summit next week — the strongest public push of the Bush administration, which has quietly been lobbying its allies for months.

“The entry of Albania, Croatia and Macedonia into NATO would be a stabilizing factor in the Balkans at a time when that is needed,” she said. They “have proven their worth in being associated with a number of important security initiatives.”

The Times reported in January that the administration was pressing the alliance to extent invitations to the three countries, but U.S. and other NATO officials have avoided public discussion of the subject, saying that decision will taken at the last minute.

NATO works only by consensus, and any member can block any action.

Even Mr. Bush used unusually diplomatic and veiled language when asked about membership for Croatia, Macedonia and Albania during a round table discussion with foreign reporters on Wednesday ahead of the summit in Bucharest, the Romanian capital.

“I’m a strong supporter of encouraging the right decision to be made at Bucharest on Croatia and Albania and Macedonia,” Mr. Bush said.

Greece has threatened to veto membership for Macedonia, because of the dispute between the two countries over Macedonia’s constitutional name, Republic of Macedonia.

Greece refuses to recognize the former Yugoslav republic with the same name as that of one of its provinces, the ancient homeland of Alexander the Great.

“It would be a pity if something that has to do with antiquity were to get in the way of what I think is a very important step for Macedonia,” Miss Rice said.

Some analysts question whether NATO is ready for another wave of enlargement, only four years after seven former communist countries increased the allies’ number to 26

The United States already is having a hard time getting many of the current NATO members to commit adequate human and financial resources for the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan.

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