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“That would be one of the wonders of the world,” Mr. Olhaye says.

Djibouti already is well-known to relatives of about 1,500 U.S. troops stationed there. Djibouti became a U.S. military outpost in the war on terrorism in 2002.

“We hear from their friends and relatives. They say, ‘I know Djibouti. My cousin is there, or my husband is there,” the ambassador says. “We feel like an extended family of the United States.”

At the United Nations, Mr. Olhaye has been at the center of history. He served on the U.N. Security Council as the former Yugoslavia was breaking up and war erupted in Bosnia.

“It was a very intense, a very painful experience because of the human rights violations Serbs committed against Bosnians,” he says.

The ambassador was not in New York on Sept. 11, 2001. He was having breakfast at his home in Potomac when the first hijacked plane hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center at 8:46 a.m. Like many others in Washington, Mr. Olhaye thought it was a tragic accident. When the second plane struck the South Tower at 9:03 a.m., he knew it was a terrorist attack and rushed to the embassy in an office building on 15th Street Northwest.

“I saw this whole city turned upside-down. The streets were swarming with people,” he said.

At the time, Mr. Olhaye was dean of the African diplomatic corps. He began work on a statement of support for the United States that all of the African ambassadors in Washington would later endorse. The statement remains displayed in the embassy’s conference room.

“I read the whole statement on the eighth floor of the State Department,” he said, referring to the elegant top floor reserved for the highest diplomatic functions. “Secretary [of State Colin] Powell was there. All of the African ambassadors were there.”

The statement expressed their “profound horror, shock and grief” over the terrorist attacks.

“May God grant us strength and patience,” it read. “May Peace Prevail!”