Prime Minister Meta meets with George W
Prime Minister Ilir Meta made an official visit to Washington DC, last week. The highlight of his trip was an unscheduled 20-minute meeting in the White House with US President George W Bush. Bush's National Security Adviser, Condoleeza Rice, was also present.
"I greatly appreciate your leadership," said President Bush, according to the prime minister's office. The US President congratulated Meta on the progress Albania has made recently in pursuing a constructive foreign policy in South-eastern Europe. Bush also reportedly hailed the progress marked by Albania itself, stressing that the stability of the Albanian state is even more important than that of the region. A press release from the prime minister's office says that Meta and Bush were in full agreement about all the issues discussed in their meeting.
Meta briefs Colin Powell
During his visit to Washington, the Albanian Prime Minister also met with US Secretary of State Colin Powell. The primary issues addressed by the two were regional problems in South-eastern Europe, economic reforms, the ongoing democratization process in Albania and foreign investment.
The US Secretary of State also assessed the important and progressive role that Meta and his government have played in the recent Macedonian crisis. Powell encouraged the Albanian government to continue in this role and to make use of its influence in developing a regional dialogue. The Secretary also commended the efforts of the prime minister and the Albanian government in restoring diplomatic relations with Belgrade.
Meta, for his part, briefed Powell on Albanian political efforts to consolidate and modernize state institutions and on preparations for the upcoming parliamentary elections. Meta told the Secretary that these will be the best-organized elections ever held in Albania.
IMF support guaranteed
Horst Kohler, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), also conferred with Meta in Washington. The Albanian Prime Minister reported to Kohler that the three-year agreement known as ESAF 2 (Albania-IMF), which ends in July of this year, has helped the Albanian government establish macro-economic stability, develop the country's market and bring about privatization reforms. Meta also briefed Kohler on the Albanian government's plans to document economic growth, as well as its poverty-reduction strategy. The meeting served to emphasize the Albanian government's plans for a successful process of privatizing strategic sectors, especially the state savings bank.
According to sources in the Prime Minister's office, Director Kohler confirmed at the meeting that the IMF will continue to support Albania. Kohler stated "the Albanian government headed by Premier Meta enjoys the full support of the IMF for the results it has attained and the development of market economy reforms in Albania.
Kohler also praised the Albanian government's approach to the political situation in the country and in the region as a significant element that will encourage foreign investments. The IMF director commended the Albanian government for the improved economic stability of the country, its sensitive budgetary expansion and successful structural reforms and privatization in strategic sectors. Meta was accompanied at the meeting by Albanian Finance Minister Anastas Angjeli and Shkelqim Cani, Governor of the Bank of Albania.
Diplomatic protest lodged by Foreign Ministry
Embassy sources have confirmed reports that unidentified persons mounted an armed assault on the Albanian Embassy in Macedonia last week. According to foreign affairs spokesperson Sokol Gjoka, the Albanian government has protested the incident via diplomatic channels to authorities in Skopje.
Meanwhile, Albania's Deputy Foreign Minister, Pellumb Xhufi, has called a special meeting with Macedonia's deputy ambassador in Tirana. Xhufi asked the Macedonian diplomat to demand that his government take all necessary measures to stop the violence against Albanians in Macedonia. Xhufi also reminded the Macedonian representative of the importance of the embassies in the two countries.
Sabri Godo, President of the Parliamentary Foreign Relations Commission, has condemned the foreign ministry's "soft" reaction, reminding the public of the harsh Bulgarian Greek response to Albanians during the Macedonian crisis. Various independent analysts have also criticized the ministry's response to such a grave diplomatic incident.
Private Catholic university to open in Tirana
Ethem Ruka, Albanian Minister of Education and Science (AMES), met last week with Rrok Mirdita, Catholic Archbishop of Tirana, and Father Mariano, a representative of Our Lady of Good Council. According to AMES sources, Archbishop Mirdita and Father Mariano announced at the meeting that the Church is currently seeking a construction site for a new private Catholic university in Tirana.
The Archbishop told reporters that a site near the Mother Teresa Hospital in the capital has been offered. Minister Ruka said he would try to expedite the sale of the site to the Church in order to begin construction as soon as possible. The new Catholic university is intended to be non-religious in its curriculum and will offer studies primarily in medicine, jurisprudence and the sciences.
Artur Nura, 4 May 2001
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