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Czech Republic: Albright Tells Students Democracy Sometimes Costs

U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright told a crowd of Czech university students yesterday that part of the price of democracy is sacrificing a deal with Iran and ensuring equal rights for minorities. RFE/RL's Lisa McAdams is traveling with Albright and reports the comments came in an address to students at Tomas Masaryk University in Brno.

Brno, Czech Republic; 7 March 2000 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright hailed the Czech Republic as a "model" of democratization for the Balkans on the first of a three-day state visit to the Czech Republic, but said more could still be done. On day two (Monday) she spelled out exactly what, during road trips outside Prague to Brno and Hodonin.

Albright chose the spots in connection with events surrounding the 150th anniversary of the birth of Tomas Masaryk, the first Czechoslovak president, who is also referred to as the father of modern Czech democracy.

Albright said Masaryk believed that a nation's success depended on loyalty to the principles which brought it into existence. In America's case and in the Czech Republic's case, she said those principles could be summed up in a single word -- freedom. But Albright noted that freedom is not an end in itself.

For example, Albright said no danger is greater than that posed by the spread of nuclear weapons. But she said like any goal worth achieving, it is not without cost. Albright said that to keep the best technology from falling into the wrong hands, American firms are required to forgo many potentially profitable contracts. She urged Czechs and others to do the same:

"But a similar responsibility rests upon the shoulders of all who are pledged to defend the best interests of the Euro-Atlantic community. And we have urged all our allies and partners to meet that responsibility so that our common security is protected and the future is safer for our children and theirs." Albright was referring to a $30 million deal a Czech company has to supply Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant with air conditioning components.

On Sunday, Czech President Vaclav Havel said his country would move to block the export. And parliament is due to hold an emergency vote on the issue later today.

The U.S. fears Iran is trying to develop a nuclear weapons program -- a charge Tehran denies.

Albright has said Prague's cooperation is part of its new responsibilities as a year-old member of NATO and she earlier warned that exports for the Bushehr plant would force Washington to consider sanctions against Prague.

In her address at Masaryk University, Albright also expressed U.S. concern that in many new democracies, average people are not seeing the tangible economic benefits that democracy is supposed to provide. She said there are many reasons for this and no single overnight solution. "But we are seeing that the countries that do best are those that are doing most to reform their economies, restructure their financial sectors, curb corruption, and invest in equipping their people with the skills required to compete in the 21st Century."

Albright added that for all the "legitimate" concerns about globalization, trade -- in her view -- remains a mighty engine of growth.

And she said the United States is working hard to help countries in transition to take advantage of the opportunities that modern day commerce affords. She added that the U.S. ambassador to the Czech Republic, John Shattuck, will soon lead a delegation of Czech firms to the United States to meet with potential investors.

A few moments later, Albright barely missed getting pelted by raw eggs by anti-American anarchists, who were quoted as expressing discontent over alleged American "imperialism."

At the next stop, Havel came to Albright's defense and said those who throw eggs, have not taken the time to study the complexities of the issues.

While in Brno, Albright also held a closed-door roundtable with representatives from the Czech Republic's Romany (Gypsy) community to discuss ways of improving their lives. And in her later speech to the students, she recalled Havel's belief that democracy is about more than elections and the economy:

"At its very base it is a commitment to the values of law and tolerance, education and the participation of all citizens, including minorities and including the Roma, in community life. It is American policy to encourage the development of these values, so that people everywhere can live richer, fuller lives."

State Department spokesman Phil Reeker told reporters the round-table ended with a general agreement that the Romany issue is one that still needs to be worked.

Some have suggested that, overall, Albright's three days of meetings in Prague -- which include sessions with President Havel, Prime Minister Milos Zeman, and Foreign Minister Jan Kavan -- will bear directly on how the secretary represents the country to EU officials when she holds talks in Brussels later in the week. Meanwhile, Albright is scheduled to deliver a speech later today on NATO and the Balkans, where she heads to on Wednesday. In it, she is likely to again remind Czech officials of their NATO duties.