In his Thursday speech, President Bush issued a stern warning to any country possessing weapons of mass destruction or harboring terrorists - a theme U.S. Secretary of State Powell will bring up when he meets with Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and Syrian foreign minister Farouk Al-Shara in Damascus Saturday. Mr. Powell is expected to ask Syria to stop backing militants and to support international peace efforts in the region. He flew to the Syrian capital late Friday ? from Albania ? where he and his counterparts from three Balkan nations signed the ?U.S.?Adriatic partnership charter.? Amy Katz has more on that.
Secretary Powell - along with the Foreign Ministers of Albania, Croatia and Macedonia - signed the Charter. The agreement is intended to bolster the efforts of the three Balkan countries to be integrated into European-Atlantic institutions ? including eventual membership in the NATO alliance. COLIN POWELL, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE
?Most importantly, the Charter promises to strengthen the ties that bind the peoples of the region to the United States, to one another, and to a common future within the Euro-Atlantic family.?
Earlier, Secretary Powell and Albanian Prime Minister Fatos Nano signed a separate agreement. It exempts either country?s citizens from prosecution in the International Criminal Court ? without the other country?s consent. The Bush administration has renounced the Court ? fearing Americans could be targeted for politically motivated prosecutions by hostile nations. The U.S. has signed similar agreements with a number of other countries. The court, which was inaugurated two months ago, has the power to prosecute war crimes and human rights violations.
Mr. Powell praised Albania for its support in the U.S.-led war against terrorism and in Iraq ? where a contingent of Albanian troops has been part of the coalition. He urged the economically struggling country to continue with reforms. So many Albanians turned out to see Secretary Powell that he went out into the street - to personally greet them.