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Rebuilding Balkans in America's image In today's global, interconnected village, I absolutely agree with "Rebuilding Balkans' fallen ideals" (June 21). The spirit of multiethnic tolerance and cooperation must prevail in the Balkans if we are all to move forward into the next millennium.

As a relatively large, ethnically diverse nation, the former Yugoslavia had many similarities to the United States with one glaring exception. Josip Broz Tito, Yugoslavia's former dictator, suppressed cultural expression and pride of Yugoslavia's more than 26 ethnic groups (especially of Serbs - Yugoslavia's most numerous ethnic group). He wanted to reduce interethnic chauvinism and mistrust by reconstituting and "unifying" these different groups into one "nationality" - the Yugoslavs. His method was one of force, not democracy and constructive persuasion.

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In the US, on the other hand, we celebrate the wide cultural diversity of all Americans and benefit immensely from the contributions made by each immigrant ethnic group - such as Christmas trees from German-Americans, St. Patrick's day from Irish- Americans, restaurants from Greek and Chinese-Americans, and Nikola Tesla from Serbian-Americans. Each ethnic group is vital to America's continued success as a multi-ethnic democracy.

With the gradual acceptance and "melting" of all of these immigrants within American society, a new identity - the American - has evolved that has freed us from the history of conflicts in the rest of the world, allowing us a clean slate from which to build.

We can similarly rebuild the Balkan region to be free of its debilitating and burdensome history, provided that we bring economic prosperity and democracy to all of the long-suffering peoples of the region.

As we rebuild Kosovo, so must we rebuild the rest of Yugoslavia. Only with fairness and compassion for all will we have any chance to help free the former Yugoslavs from their isolation and fear and encourage them to replace their very close-minded leaders.

Dr. Michael Pravica, New York Vice President The Serbian-American Alliance

Freedom of dress for Turkish women Regarding "In a knot over head scarves in Turkey," June 22): The article overlooks the underlying issue permeating Turkey's laws prohibiting the wearing of head scarves for women. The point is a patriarchy dictates a dress code for women. Nowhere in the article was anyone interviewed who questioned the right of a government to impose its patriarchal prejudices upon half of the population. Rather than emphasizing the bickering over whether or not head scarves should or should not be worn, your article missed the opportunity to address the point underpinning the debate - the right of adult women to choose their own dress.

Elizabeth Ducharme, Selbyville, Del.

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Religious tolerance Regarding the opinion article "When a blessing isn't" (June 4): While I agree strongly with the need for separation of state and religion, I would like to point out that, at an individual and family level, with a little intelligence and the abolition of dogmatic and quarrelsome prejudice, things do not always have to be so difficult. People do not always have to take offense at long-established social customs.

Our family members are not all of the same - or even any - religion and we also tend to move around, so that we are rarely all in the same country at the same time. However, there has recently been a tendency to gather as many of us as possible under one roof for a traditional Christmas lunch.

The funny thing about it is that the hosts of this Christmas reunion are my uncle and aunt, and that side of the family is Jewish.

Iain Napier, Besanon, France

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