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The BBC's Richard Lister
"Madeleine Albright is close friends with President Havel"
 real 28k

Monday, 28 February, 2000, 23:28 GMT
Albright tipped for Czech presidency
Madeleine Albright
Madeleine Albright: Going back to her roots
US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is being tipped to run for the presidency of the Czech Republic.

President Vaclav Havel has already openly talked about the possibility of Ms Albright succeeding him after he retires in 2002.

But speculation is being heightened this week as Ms Albright prepares for a visit to the Czech Republic, where she was born.

Michael Zantovsky, former Czech ambassador to Washington, said on Sunday that he met last week with Mr Havel and discussed, among other things, the possibility that Ms Albright might run to succeed Mr Havel.

The ball is on her side ... I think she would be the best candidate we could have for that position

Jiri Pehe, adviser to Vaclav Havel
He said: "I never made it a secret that I think that Madeleine Albright could, one day in the future, play a big role in Czech politics." Time magazine quoted unidentified sources as saying she "has begun to consider the possibility of running".

Mr Havel's chief policy adviser, Pavel Fischer, told Time: "It is not impossible that they (Albright and Havel) will talk about this."

And Jiri Pehe, an adviser to Mr Havel, also told Time: "The ball is on her side ... I think she would be the best candidate we could have for that position."


But Ms Albright's spokesman, James Rubin, denied that she was considering running for the presidency.

Vaclav Havel: Open admiration for Albright
He acknowledged that she had been approached by Czech officials and was flattered by suggestions that she should run for office, but said she had never seriously considered it.

But such a move does have its precedents.

The US Constitution bars Ms Albright, or any other foreign-born citizen from the American presidency, but there appears to be no legal bar to keep an American from assuming the presidency of another country.

Lithuania's current president, Valdas Adamkus, is a former US government bureaucrat, Yugoslavia's former prime minister, American Milan Panic, was a California millionaire before returning to his homeland and in Israel, Golda Meir moved from a Milwaukee classroom to become prime minister of Israel.

Havel 'regrets'

Mr Havel first brought up the presidency idea in 1998.

After returning to Prague from an official visit to the US, he expressed regret that he had not asked whether she would be available to succeed him.

"It occurred to me on the plane on my way back home," Mr Havel said, "so I did not have the chance to ask her."

Ms Albright's maiden name is Marie Korbelova. Her father was a Czech diplomat who took his family to London as Germany took over their homeland at the start of World War II.

The family then moved to Denver in 1948 rather than serve under a communist Czechoslovakian government.

Her three-day visit starting on 5 March coincides with the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the birth of national hero Tomas Masaryk, who served as the first president of the Czechoslovak Republic after the collapse of Austria-Hungary in 1918.

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Madeleine Albright: Haunted by history
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