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Embassy Row

- The Washington Times - Monday, August 18, 2008

HELLENIZE DUBLIN

Yiorgos Chouliaras shares a goal with "stately, plump Buck Mulligan."

Like the character in James Joyce's modernist novel "Ulysses," the Greek diplomat and poet who left Washington for Dublin on Sunday is fascinated by Mulligan's call to "Hellenize" Ireland.

Like the mythical hero Ulysses in Homer's ancient epic poem "The Odyssey," Mr. Chouliaras is a wandering soul on a long journey home.

Because of his love of Joyce's works, Mr. Chouliaras sees Ireland as a way station on his own personal odyssey that began in 1969 when he left Greece after graduating from high school.

He traveled to the United States and settled in Oregon, where he had a scholarship to Reed College, and then in New York, where he worked as a press spokesman at the Greek Consulate. His last posting in the United States was as spokesman for the Greek Embassy in Washington.

At a farewell reception at the embassy last week, Mr. Chouliaras talked of U.S. history, recalling the 18th-century congressional compromise that brought the federal capital from Philadelphia to the marshy banks of the Potomac.

"This is a city established on the basis of politics," he said. "This is what makes Washington an exciting city. For a New Yorker, it is a bucolic city, a Hellenic city."

References to the Hellenic culture of ancient Greece punctuate many of his remarks, an apt habit for a published poet and essayist. He noted that Joyce also was captivated by classical Greek literature, which inspired him to write "Ulysses."

Mr. Chouliaras recalls his decision to leave Greece, then under a military dictatorship, in his memoirs, "America Is No Longer Here," described as "seriously whimsical" by David Mason, an English professor at Moorhead State University in Minnesota.

Mr. Chouliaras wrote of seeing many foreign tourists in Greece as a boy and decided that, when he grew up, he must "also become a foreigner."

Under the junta, he wrote, "All of Greece became a terrible poem." On his decision to migrate to the United States, he added: "Better in Oregon than in jail."

RESTORE DEMOCRACY

A top U.S. diplomat warned the military rulers who overthrew Mauritania's democratic government that they will face a total cutoff of American aid unless they release President Sidi Mohamed Ould Cheikh Abdallahi and restore the elected officials.

"The coup was illegal and illegitimate, and we call for the immediate release of President Abdallahi and his restoration as the legitimate president of Mauritania," Todd Moss, deputy assistant secretary of state for African affairs, told reporters in the capital, Nouakchott.

Mr. Moss said he also delivered the tough message to the coup leader, Gen. Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz.

The Bush administration suspended $25 million in aid after the Aug. 6 coup.

The junta, however, appears determined to consolidate the coup. Gen. Aziz last week planned to appoint Mauritania's ambassador to the European Union as prime minister, according to a report from the Agence France-Presse.

Diplomatic traffic

Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:

Tuesday

Giorgi Baramidze, Georgia's deputy prime minister and state minister for Euro-Atlantic integration. He addresses the Atlantic Council on the Russian invasion of his country and holds a 3 p.m. news conference at the National Press Club.

Festus Mogae, former president of Botswana, who attends the screening of the film "Botswana: The President" at the World Bank's Preston Auditorium.

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