- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 26, 2000

Iceland and Vikings

Icelandic Ambassador Jon Hannibalsson is happy to explain the connection between Leif Ericson, the discovery of America, democracy and NATO.

For the erudite envoy, one is a continuation of the other, and this week is the perfect time to connect the medieval Icelandic explorer and the trans-Atlantic alliance. The Smithsonian Institution tomorrow opens an exhibit titled "Vikings The North Atlantic Saga" with Nordic ambassadors and the king and queen of Norway.

Mr. Hannibalsson, in a speech prepared for delivery today at a meeting of the World Affairs Council in Norfolk, recounts the voyages of the man known to Icelanders as "Leif, the Lucky."

He recalls the early democratic institutions of Iceland and his small island's role as a bulwark of freedom during World War II and the Cold War, and as an advocate of the expansion of NATO to include the Baltic nations on Russia's border.

He says the Smithsonian exhibit will help explain to Americans that Leif Ericson arrived in North America nearly 500 years before Columbus. The Vikings explored and established temporary settlements in parts of Canada.

"His land of birth, Iceland, can justly claim to have the longest established relationship between any European country and North America," he says.

Mr. Hannibalsson also notes that Iceland had established a democratic government in the 10th century. It lasted nearly 300 years until Iceland was conquered by Norway.

"It took us more than 600 years to restore the balance and regain independence," he says.

Mr. Hannibalsson notes that Iceland, while officially neutral in World War II, cooperated with the Allies, who established air and naval bases there.

"Hitler had plans to occupy Iceland," the ambassador says. "He knew who controls Iceland controls the sea lanes of communication across the Atlantic."

Iceland became a founding member of NATO in 1949.

"Since then, it has been recognized that Iceland within the NATO alliance is the physical embodiment of the trans-Atlantic relationship, which since then has been and remains to this very day the mainstay of the great democratic alliance of America and Europe," Mr. Hannibalsson says.

Iceland now is a major advocate for the admission of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia and former Warsaw Pact nations into NATO, despite Russian objections.

"A peaceful and prosperous Eastern Europe does not pose any threat to Russia," he says.

Chernobyl remembered

Ukrainian Ambassador Kostyantyn Gryshchenko this evening will lead a commemoration on the 14th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear accident.

Mr. Gryshchenko will be joined by representatives of the Ukrainian-American community and clergymen from the Ukrainian Orthodox and Catholic churches at the 6:30 p.m. gathering in Lafayette Park.

Telefees' and heliport

Ukrainian Ambassador Kostyantyn Gryshchenko this evening will lead a commemoration on the 14th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear accident.

Mr. Gryshchenko will be joined by representatives of the Ukrainian-American community and clergymen from the Ukrainian Orthodox and Catholic churches at the 6:30 p.m. gathering in Lafayette Park.

'Telefees' and heliportPresident Clinton and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori will discuss the thorny issue of Japanese telecommunications fees but avoid another contentious matter, a new airport for a U.S. helicopter fleet, when they meet in Washington next week, the Kyodo News Service reports.

Japanese Ambassador Shunji Yanai this week outlined some of the issues the two leaders will discuss at their May 5 summit.

The fees charged by Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp. for foreign communications firms to operate in Japan is "a matter of concern that the leaders of the two countries think should be resolved," Mr. Yanai said.

However, while Mr. Clinton and Mr. Mori plan to discuss the issue, they do not intend to engage in negotiations on the matter, the ambassador said.

The United States has already warned it will file a complaint with the World Trade Organization unless Japan pledges to cut the telecommunications access fee by July 28.

Mr. Yanai also said Mr. Mori will not raise the issue of the planned relocation of the Marine Corps' Futemma Air Station in Ginowan in central Okinawa to a site in Nago on the northern part of the island.

The local government on Okinawa wants a 15-year limit on the use of the air base, but the Japanese government has not committed itself to a time frame.

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