- The Washington Times - Monday, May 15, 2000

Caribbean trade bonus

Costa Rican Ambassador Jamie Daremblum is praising Congress for passing new trade benefits for Caribbean countries.

Costa Rica rallied Central American support for the measure, part of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act, which will expand the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI).

The Senate approved the House-passed bill last week and sent it to President Clinton, who is expected to sign it on Wednesday. The measure will reduce tariffs on textiles from 70 countries in Africa, the Caribbean and Central America.

"The Senate's enactment of the CBI legislation will be warmly received by the people of the entire Caribbean region, but especially by the Central American countries," Mr. Daremblum said.

Those countries had been seeking this legislation for several years to make them more competitive with Mexico, which enjoys the benefits of the North American Free Trade Agreement, and to help improve economies that were devastated by hurricanes in 1998.

"Our president, Miguel Angel Rodriguez, deserves special recognition for his leadership with the Central American countries and for urging Congress to recognize how important this legislation is to our region," added Mr. Daremblum.

"He was in the halls of Congress meeting with key congressional leaders on the very day that the bill came before the Senate. He was tireless in his dedication to seeing this bill to the finish line."

In the Costa Rican capital, San Jose, Mr. Rodriguez also thanked the Senate, especially Majority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican; Sen. William V. Roth Jr., Delaware Republican; and Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, New York Democrat.

"Now we can get about the business of developing a strong regional economy in partnership with the United States," he said.

Tale of two embassies

The new U.S. mission in Moscow has been dedicated 15 years after construction was halted in an espionage scandal, but a new disagreement has erupted in the troubled plan for a new embassy in Berlin.

U.S. Ambassador to Russia James Collins opened the Moscow embassy Friday, telling the Agence France-Presse: "This facility has been a long time in coming."

Construction stopped in 1985 after U.S. intelligence officials discovered the building was riddled with Soviet electronic surveillance devices embedded in walls, floors, pillars and beams.

Congress had to allocate an additional $240 million, on top of the $22 million already spent, to rebuild the structure, this time using U.S. workers and American materials.

AFP described the new building as a "bold combination of glass and steel set into stone, rather elegant in its own post-modern sort of way."

Meanwhile in Germany, a new dispute broke out Friday when a Berlin city official refused to approve plans for U.S. Embassy guard posts outside the diplomatic compound, according to the Berliner Zeitung newspaper.

Peter Streider, Berlin's director of urban development, complained that the guard posts would violate German sovereignty if they were located outside the embassy grounds, which are legally U.S. territory.

"Naturally this is not possible," a spokeswoman told the newspaper.

The embassy declined to comment on the newspaper report.

The guard posts are only the latest in a series of problems between the United States and the city of Berlin.

Berlin is balking at U.S. demands for an 82-foot-wide security zone around the embassy, which will be located near the Brandenburg Gate. The city is offering a 10-foot-wide buffer.

Diplomatic traffic

Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:

Tomorrow

• Former South African President Nelson Mandela, who is in Washington until Friday.

• Peter Harrach, Hungarian minister for social and family affairs, who will meet U.S. officials.

Wednesday

• Andrei Urnov, director of the Russian Foreign Ministry's Caspian working group, who will attend a forum at the School for Advanced International Studies.

Sunday

• South African President Thabo Mbeki, who begins a six-day visit.

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