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U.S. Envoy To Vilnius Urges Emigres Not To Lose Heart

Washington, May 7 (RFE/RL) - U.S. Ambassador to Lithuania James Swihart has told Lithuanian Americans that they should expand their cooperation and assistance even though many of them feel that their help has "been rejected by Lithuania."

"Certainly since my arrival in Vilnius, I have heard all too often from Lithuanian Americans that they are giving up. They feel they have been rejected by Lithuania," Swihart said at a dinner in his honor on Saturday in the American city of Chicago.

He added that many believe that "the old nomenklatura and the new magias have overwhelmed the country -- everything is lost." But he said there were three reasons why that attitude should be rejected:

"First," Swihart said, "no one said it would be easy. The fight against the Soviet occupation of the Baltic states was a long and hard one, but in many ways, it was easier than the current task. It is always easier to tear down than to rebuild."

Second, he argued that many programs had been outstanding successes, such as APPLE, the American Professional Partnership for Lithuanian Education, and the U.S. Baltic Foundation.

And third, he stressed that most Lithuanians do not want to reject the help of Lithuanian Americans and others who have genuinely wanted to help in the area of their specializations. Swihart suggested that only those who wanted to talk about things they did not understand had been rejected by Lithuanians.

Swihart called on Lithuanian Americans to continue the work they had done for so many years in keeping the candle of freedom alive for Lithuania.

He made his remarks at a Lithuanian American Community dinner in his honor at the Balzeikas Museum of Lithuanian Culture in Chicago. He was presented with the Amber Award by the LAC and a special medal by visiting Professor and Lithuanian MP Vytautas Landsbergis.

The Amber Award was created in 1991 to honor Americans who have made a signal contribution to the restoration of Lithuanian independence and democracy. Swihart is the third recipient.

Swihart was in Chicago to attend a major U.S. government-sponsored conference on Baltic security.