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American Space Show Exhibit Inteview
Q. I would first like to thank you for accepting to give an interview for Onufri TV.
Ambassador: Thank you. It is my pleasure.
Q: I would like to start with a first comment saying that it is really very good that we are having a space show exhibit at ďEdward LearĒ Gallery, but we are really sorry that you wont be able to attend the opening event.
Ambassador: Iím sorry. I have visited the Edward Lear Gallery in Berat as well as the Onufri Gallery there too. I know there is an interesting collection of Albanian art there and I am delighted we are able to put this exhibition on, which we have done in Tirana, also offer to the people in Berat and the surrounding area.
Q: However, we would really appreciate you giving us more comments about this space show exhibit opening in Berat, which are related especially to the exploration of space from the Ö.
Ambassador: Right. I would be delighted to. As you know, the space exploration really goes back to the 1950s and especially became important to the 1960s. At that time, space exploration was known as the space race and it was something of an issue between the US and the Soviet Union with everybody rushing to be the first in the space especially with regard from the promise from President Kennedy that the US would be the first to the moon, an accomplishment which we achieved in 1969. I think what the exhibit does is --- with very beautiful photography and texts --- show how our space exploration has gone forward. It focuses on some of the most outstanding events of the times particularly the existence of man going into space. It is also important because it focuses on how space and space exploration is a reflection of political change over the last 40-50 years in particular moving from competition between the US and the Soviet Union to bigger cooperation with the US and Russians today in the area space exploration. So, I think people will find it a very interesting exhibit, which was quite successful here in Tirana as well.
Q: Our contact point seems to be the Edward Lear Gallery over there. Could you please make any comment or state about the future cooperation between the US Embassy and Berat?
Ambassador: One of the things that we have tried to do in the Embassy since I have been here is expand beyond Tirana and look for ways of cooperating with people in different communities. The one thing I like to travel around the country a great deal. Itís always nice to get outside of Tirana. Itís always good to visit people and other cities and I have been to Berat several times. I hope to go there again before I leave Albania. One of the areas that we work the hardest...is in our democracy grants to build cooperation with NGOs in local cities and regions. So we are not just focusing all of our systems in Tirana, but actually getting out in some areas, often areas which have some of the toughest social problems, and ...economic problems. This is more difficult to do in the cultural area, although in fact we have done that. Most recently the group ďAmerican VoicesĒ which was here just last week gave a concert in Tirana, also gave a concert in Vlora and we will look increasingly for opportunities to do that. This is another of the reasons where we sometimes when I give speeches I give them outside of Tirana most recently in Elbasan, also last year in Shkodra where we gave a thoroughly important politically related speech. We tried to do so in Tirana but also elsewhere. So I think this kind of cooperation will continue. As to what specifically we will do in Berat, I canít say, but certainly we will look for opportunities to do that.
Q: I would like to expand the focus of the interview beyond the exhibit. You have visited Berat several times. You stayed there. You strolled in the evenings in the streets. We would like to hear your impressions of the town.
Ambassador: Before I went to Berat I was told by someone it is actually pretty ... and provides the best preserved old Ottoman town in all of Europe and I think thatís true. It is a very beautiful city. Thatís the first thing someone notices when you go there. But thereís more to it than that. The last time I was in Berat was to dedicate the municipal lighting facility that USAID helped to fund, USAID actually funded. The thing I was most impressed by ...[that] beautiful summer evening ... was the large number of people who were out strolling and sitting outside in the cafes. And I think in a large way that exemplifies the changes that have taken place in Albania in recent years, where there is a much more relaxed society, with people able to interact themselves much more than they were back in 1997 where Berat in particular had a lot of problems with anarchy, violence, criminality.
Q: Today is March 11, a day which has changed quite a lot of things for the US. What can you say as the Representative of the US in Albania six months after September 11.
Ambassador: There are two real themes that we talked with people in Albania about. The first was, we were very impressed with the tremendous outpouring of sympathy and concern that came not just from the Albanian state, but from all Albanian people from all walks of life. That came really heartfelt to Americans at that time and I find that closeness and sympathy still exist and was demonstrated last night in a concert of Kastriot Tusha that was conducted here in Tirana, which is dedicated again to the people who were survivors and the surviving families, the people who were killed in New York on September 11. The other thing although I think is important to keep in mind is that one of the things I said to people in that time was that the American people are slowly getting into anger, but when they do and when they dedicate themselves to a particular cause, we stand together and we fight and we stay together for a long period of time and I think we see that support not just on September 11 and not just in the days afterwards, but also in a tremendous unity with which Americans are backing right now some of our soldiers and some other soldiers in Afghanistan in fighting al-Qaeida fighters in Eastern Afghanistan. I think the terrorists will, if they havenít already learned and many of them already have, they will learn very soon that while we are slow to anger, when we do anger we stick together. And we will continue this fight. It is a fight not only for Americans but also for all people who are civilized because the people who want to destroy America, also want to destroy all the western civilization, a civilization which Albania is not only part of, but working hard to become closer to integration into NATO and integration into the European Union.
Q: The last question. How do you see the future relations between the US Embassy and Berat as a city and prefecture, which is a cooperation that has just started.
Ambassador: I am sure we will continue. Our resources at the Embassy are significantly greater than when we first came to Albania in the 1990s. Thatís a reflection of our interest in the region as a whole but also in Albanian-American relations and our commitment to be involved in building stability in the region. This means we canít just sit in our office in Tirana, we have to work out and work with many citizens. We do this. We travel regularly to Vlora, to Berat, to Saranda, to Gjirokastra to KorÁa in the south and also to Shkodra in the north, to other cities in the north. Some of the places in the north are much more difficult to reach. One of my goals for example this Spring is to get out to KukŽs and also to Tropoja and visit some places where I have been before, but I want to go again.
Q: Mr. Ambassador. Thank you and we hope to see you soon in Berat.
Ambassador: Thank you very much.