- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 20, 2005

Dancing diplomats

True to their diplomatic nature, the world’s ambassadors put aside any differences with the United States for one day to watch as President Bush was sworn in for a second term.

Washington’s diplomatic corps met for coffee at the State Department on the west side of the city, where buses waited to take them to the swearing-in across town at the Capitol.

“It’s a great day always for the United States, full of tradition … that is wonderful to watch,” said Colombian Ambassador Luis Alberto Moreno, who mentioned Mr. Bush’s November trip to his country.

Asked by the Associated Press about widespread international opposition to Mr. Bush’s policies, Mr. Moreno smiled and said: “As a true diplomat, I only talk about relations between my country and the United States.”

After the swearing-in, ambassadors were invited to a luncheon, to view the parade and to an evening ball.

Saudis vindicated

Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz says he is “very gratified” that a U.S. federal court this week dismissed a lawsuit that said Saudi Arabia bankrolled the September 11 terrorist attacks.

The ambassador said the decision reflects the conclusion of the September 11 commission report, which vindicated Saudi Arabia.

The U.S. District Court in New York threw out the lawsuit that named Saudi government officials, major financial institutions and prominent businessmen.

“The decision of the court is consistent with the findings of the 9/11 commission, which concluded after exhaustive investigation that there is no evidence of involvement in or financial support for terrorism by the Saudi government or the royal family,” Prince Bandar said.

The lawsuit named Defense Minister Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz and the Saudi ambassador to Britain, Prince Turki al-Faisal.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of victims of the terrorist attacks. The plaintiffs also included more than 40 insurance companies.

Moroccan free trade

The Moroccan Embassy is heralding the new free-trade pact with the United States as the “best market-access package” that Washington has reached with a developing country.

“Tariffs are eliminated on 95 percent of bilateral trade between Morocco and the United States, with the remaining tariffs slated to be phased out gradually over the next nine years,” the embassy said.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick and Taib Fassi Fihri, Morocco’s minister-delegate of foreign affairs, signed the agreement in June, and Congress approved the deal in July.

Chamber aid

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is responding to the tsunami disaster with plans to help rebuild the business community in five South and Southeast Asian nations hit by the Dec. 26 tidal waves.

“Out of this tragedy, the strong people of the region will not only persevere, but will respond by building stronger communities than before,” said Chamber President Thomas J. Donohue.

He outlined the chamber’s goals in a forum this week with ambassadors Devinda Rohan Subasinghe of Sri Lanka, Kasit Piromya of Thailand, Dato Sheikh Abdul Khalid Ghazzali of Malaysia and Soemadi Djoko Brotodiningrat of Indonesia, and government officials from India.

The chamber plans to send a corporate delegation to the region and to work with the Bush administration and Congress to develop a trade and investment package.

Mr. Donohue said that American corporations have contributed more than $300 million in cash and aid, calling the response “the largest documented U.S. corporate international aid effort in history.”

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison @washingtontimes.com.

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