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US "grateful for Slovak support"

THE SLOVAK Spectator asked US Embassy spokesman Keith Hughes how the latest developments in Slovak foreign policy could affect Slovak-US relations on January 23.

THE SLOVAK Spectator asked US Embassy spokesman Keith Hughes how the latest developments in Slovak foreign policy could affect Slovak-US relations on January 23.

The Slovak Spectator (TSS): Are any visits planned by US officials to Slovakia or Slovak officials to the US in the near future?

Keith Hughes (KH): Rear Admiral Michael J. Lyden, director of logistics and security assistance from the headquarters of the United States European Command in Germany is planning a visit at the end of February. Lt. General Jeffrey B. Kohler, the director of the Defence Security Cooperation Agency in Arlington, Virginia is also planning a visit for the middle of March.

Points of cooperation in the past include $74.1 million in foreign military financing to help pay for new equipment, and $8.2 million in international military education and training funds to enable professional Slovak soldiers, including then Lieutenant-Colonel František Kašický, to study at America's finest military academies and training institutions.


TSS: The Slovak government is going ahead with the withdrawal of the Slovak unit from Iraq. Does this withdrawal have any impact on how the US views Slovakia? Has the US government been disappointed to see one of its allies pull out of Iraq?

KH:The United States and the US Embassy are very grateful for the support the Slovak Republic has given to the Iraqi people in their fight to create a stable democracy. Slovakia has a great deal to offer to young democracies. We are glad, but most importantly the Iraqi people are grateful that Slovakia will continue its support to Iraq in the form of training for Iraqi military personnel, and that it has offered training to Iraqi police, so that Iraqi security forces are eventually able to maintain the country's security without outside help.

We also praise the Slovak NGOs that continue to help the development of Iraqi civil society. In addition, we will provide training in the coming months for Slovak companies to enable them to better compete for reconstruction contracts. All of these contributions are valuable to Iraq's economic and democratic transformation.


TSS: In a recent interview, Slovakia's ambassador to the US, Rastislav Káčer, said that Slovaks might be able to travel to the US without visas within the next two years. Is this realistic?

KH: The US administration is committed to introducing new legislation which addresses the Visa Waiver Program in the near future. Congress must then pass this legislation, and countries wishing to benefit under the new regime must comply with the security measures it stipulates. It is difficult to say how long that may take.


- Martina Jurinová

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