- The Washington Times - Friday, December 31, 1999

Diplomats' New Year

Many members of Washington's diplomatic corps plan a quiet New Year's Eve.

British Ambassador Sir Christopher Meyer and his wife will mark the occasion with American friends at a private party.

"1999 has been a year in which the United States and the United Kingdom have been in arms together in Kosovo and Iraq," he told Embassy Row Thursday.

Mr. Meyer noted that the two countries have once again strengthened their economic relationship, making the United States and Britain two of the closest trading partners in the world.

"That is a tremendous and largely unsung underpinning of the special relationship," he said.

For the future, his primary hope for the New Year is peace in Northern Ireland. The peace process, which almost collapsed in the summer, was rescued by the end of the year with the help of a U.S. envoy, former Sen. George Mitchell, Maine Democrat, who helped broker the Good Friday peace accord of 1998.

"Northern Ireland, God willing that will be solved in the year 2000," Mr. Meyer said.

Indian Ambassador Naresh Chandra won't be celebrating unless the hostages are freed from a hijacked Indian airliner in Afghanistan.

"One doesn't feel like celebrating until they are off the aircraft," said Mr. Chandra, who expects to spend a quiet evening with some close friends.

"We are hoping the hostages will be released. If there is good news, we will open the champagne."

One ambassador who has much to celebrate is Panama's Guillermo Ford, who has returned to his country for New Year's festivities to mark Panama's control of the Panama Canal.

For Turkish Ambassador Baki Ilkin, the past year has seen monumental and tragic changes in his country.

Kurdish terrorist Abdullah Ocalan was captured and convicted. Turkey fell victim to a massive earthquake. The European Union invited Turkey to take the first steps toward membership, and Turkey improved diplomatic relations with Greece.

But for Mr. Ilkin, there will be little celebrating tonight. He is down with the flu.

Macedonian Ambassador Lubica Acevska, whose country was nearly destroyed by the crush of refugees in the war in neighboring Kosovo, is thankful her nation survived and predicts it will prosper.

"I think we are on the right track," she said. "It was a tough year, but to the credit of the Macedonian people, we were able to withstand the difficulties."

More than 350,000 refugees poured into Macedonia during the war.

"We have a lot to be thankful for," she said. "The economy is recovering. We just elected a new president."

Boris Trajkovski, who was inaugurated Dec. 15, pledges to continue moving the country toward a market economy and to strengthen democratic institutions.

Miss Acevska said she hopes the New Year will see the fulfillment of international pledges of financial aid. Hundreds of millions of dollars in promises remain uncollected.

"My wish for the New Year is for peace and prosperity for Macedonia, the region and the world," she said.

Best face forward

Edward von Kloberg, one of the best-known diplomatic lobbyists in Washington, is facing the New Year with a new face.

Mr. von Kloberg, just back from a trip to Gambia with three congressmen, had a face lift earlier this week and is proudly telling all.

" 'Lobbyist to the impossible' admits to face lift," he told Embassy Row Thursday, embracing a nickname given him by the press because of some of the difficult foreign potentates he has represented over the past 20 years.

He had Zaire strongman Mobutu Sese Seko as a client until he was overthrown by Laurent Kabila, who is now a client in what has been renamed the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Asked what he is doing for New Year's, he said, "Resting my sutures."

Mr. von Kloberg said he has been home all week, hiding his blackened eyes and stitches from the world. Diplomats have been calling to come visit, but he has turned them down.

"I'm from the old school. Send cards or scotch," he said.

The sometimes portly lobbyist, with his tailor-made suits, turns 58 next month and says his next plan is to lose some weight the surgical way.

"The tummy tuck is next," he said.

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