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Sunday, 5 March, 2000, 07:27 GMT
Albright faces quiz over Czech presidency
Albright and Havel
Mrs Albright and Mr Havel are close friends
The American Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, is beginning a visit to the Czech Republic - a week after speculation arose that she was considering running for the country's presidency.

On the eve of her visit, the Czech-born Mrs Albright said that she was flattered by the suggestion but would not be putting herself forward as a candidate when the term of the current President, Vaclav Havel, runs out in 2003.


Of course they will talk about it, it has caused a big controversy here

Jiri Pehe, Havel adviser
However, Mr Havel's adviser, Jiri Pehe, said the president would raise the subject with her.

"Of course they will talk about it, it has caused a big controversy here, it's something that he will certainly, as a good friend, ask about," he said.

Mr Havel has made it plain that he favours Mrs Albright as his successor.

Correspondents say he sees her as the only potential candidate with the requisite strength and stature to pursue his reformist vision.

havel
Vaclav Havel: Reformist vision
But in a statement released by the US embassy in Prague on Wednesday, Mrs Albright said: "I am not and will not be a candidate for that high office, for which I am sure there willl be no shortage of highly-qualified Czech men and women."

She added: "I will always love the placed where I was born, but my allegiance is to the United States."

Mrs Albright's term as secretary of state is due to expire when President Bill Clinton leaves office next January.

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

Madeleine Albright at Friday's talks in Lisbon
Madeleine Albright's foreign tour began in Lisbon
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.

Mrs Albright was born Marie Korbelova in 1937. 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.

During her three-day visit to the Czech republic, Mrs Albright will take part in a series of events to mark the 150th anniversay of the birth of the first president of Czechoslovakia, Tomas Masaryk.

She will travel on to Sarajevo on 8 March, before meeting European Union President Romano Prodi and Nato Secretary-General George Robertson in Brussels on 10 March.
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09 Apr 99 |  kosovo strikes
Madeleine Albright: Haunted by history
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