- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 25, 2009


Washington is hoping for free and fair elections in Albania on Sunday to justify its support for the poor, Eastern European nation with a history of voting fraud.

The United States championed Albania’s membership in NATO, which it joined in April, and hopes it can meet the qualifications for membership in the European Union, which is also closely monitoring the elections to the 140-seat People’s Assembly.

Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat and chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, co-sponsored a resolution unanimously adopted by the Senate on Friday that calls on Albania to ensure that the elections are fair.

“America’s vested interest in Albania did not end with their acceptance to NATO,” he said in a joint statement with Sens. Benjamin L. Cardin, Maryland Democrat; Ted Kaufman, Delaware Democrat; Joe Lieberman, Connecticut independent; Richard G. Lugar, Indiana Republican; and Jeanne Shaheen, New Hampshire Democrat.

“Now more than ever, we must be committed to seeing an Albanian election that is credible in the eyes of the nation’s people as well as its European partners. As allies, we are deeply invested in the country’s success.”

Pre-election violence has already claimed three lives. A supporter of Prime Minister Sali Berisha was killed in a dispute over campaign posters earlier this month. In May, a Socialist member of parliament was fatally shot. Also, in June, a local member of a small conservative party died in a car explosion, but police said the blast was unrelated to the election campaign.

The latest public opinion polls show Mr. Berisha’s Democratic Party running only slightly ahead of the Socialist Party, led by Edi Rama, mayor of the Albanian capital, Tirana.


The United States and Venezuela will send ambassadors back to each other’s capital, nearly a year after the anti-American President Hugo Chavez expelled the U.S. ambassador and recalled his own envoy from Washington.

Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro on Wednesday told reporters in Caracas that the exchange of diplomats “will take place in the coming days.”

Mr. Chavez kicked out Ambassador Patrick Duddy in September and recalled Venezuelan Ambassador Bernardo Alvarez in what he called an expression of “solidarity” with President Evo Morales of Bolivia, who had his own diplomatic dispute with the United States.

Mr. Morales expelled U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg, after accusing the Bush administration of interfering in Bolivian affairs. Washington retaliated by kicking out Ambassador Mario Gustavo Guzman. That dispute has not been settled.


President Obama is planning to send an ambassador to Syria, reversing a decision by former President George W. Bush, who withdrew the U.S. envoy four years ago to protest Syria’s suspected involvement in the assassination of a popular former Lebanese prime minister.

Administration officials told reporters in Washington that the return of an ambassador to the Syrian capital, Damascus, will take some time but the decision to restore full relations has been made.

Jeffrey D. Feltman, acting assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs, informed Syrian Ambassador Imad Moustapha of the administration’s decision Tuesday evening.

In February 2004, Mr. Bush recalled Ambassador Margaret Scobey, after former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri died in a massive car-bomb explosion in Beirut. A U.N. investigation later linked Syria to the assassination.

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

• James Morrison can be reached at jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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