- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 20, 2009

AMERICA’S PROMISE

From his seat on the inaugural platform on the West Front of the Capitol, the ambassador from Pakistan marveled at the massive throng that crowded the National Mall along the two-mile stretch to the Washington Monument.

“It was a very touching moment,” Ambassador Husain Haqqani told Embassy Row, after attending his first presidential inauguration. “Basically everybody was moved by the fact that it truly signified change in many, many ways.”

Mr. Haqqani noted the pride expressed by ambassadors from Africa and the Caribbean at the swearing-in of the first black U.S. president.

President Obama’s inauguration fulfilled “the promise of America,” the ambassador said.

“Today, everybody felt how special America is as a country. … All related to the promise of America, both for America and for the rest of the world.”

Mr. Haqqani and about 180 other foreign ambassadors in Washington had reserved seats at the Capitol ceremony because they represented their nations, even though higher-ranking foreign leaders were also in town for the inauguration.

Because they had no formal part in the celebration, a delegation from Kenya, led by Tourism Minister Najib Mohamed Balala, set out from their hotel to join the crowd on the Mall, and by mid-afternoon his public relations aide was getting nervous.

“Where are they?” asked Maisa Fernandez, the North American public relations manager for the Kenya Tourist Board. Later, she made contact.

Cecily Mbarire, the assistant tourism minister, said she, Mr. Balala and Rebecca Nabutola, the ministry’s permanent secretary, were determined to take in the sight.

“This is a part of history,” she said. “We want to be part of it.”

CZECH SUCCESS STORY

Czech Ambassador Petr Kolar, whose country now holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, pledged Europe’s support for President Obama and identified the conflicts in Afghanistan and Pakistan as the most pressing foreign policy crises facing the new American leader.

“Under the Czech presidency, the European Union must be prepared to positively engage with the United States in the possibly biggest foreign policy priority for the new U.S. administration, which is Afghanistan and Pakistan,” he said in an interview in the Central Europe Digest, a publication of the Washington-based Center for European Policy Analysis.

“European nations have demonstrated their engagement in participating in the NATO mission in Afghanistan, but it is also the EU, itself, that should be prepared to help the U.S. in soft-power engagement in Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

EU foreign ministers last year agreed on four main priorities for cooperation with the United States, Mr. Kolar said, listing Afghanistan-Pakistan, the Middle East, relations with Russia and “effective multilateralism.”

Mr. Kolar, ambassador in Washington for three years, praised the United States as an inspiration to the Czech Republic, which embraced democracy 20 years ago with the collapse of communism.

“In these short 20 years, from 1989 to 2009, the Czech Republic achieved a lot. A nation living under the communist dictatorship became a free, democratic, independent and prosperous country, a member of NATO and the EU, a country ready to chair the European Union,” he said, referring to the EU presidency, which rotates every six months among its 27 member nations.

“This success story owes much to the inspiration of ideals of the United States of America, and we hope it may serve as an inspiration for other nations, as well.”

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

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