- The Washington Times - Friday, January 30, 2009

TOUCHDOWN

As he prepares for Super Bowl Sunday, the owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers is also enjoying the attention he is getting as President Obama’s possible choice to serve as ambassador to Ireland.

“I have the credentials. There’s no doubt about that,” Dan Rooney told the Irish Times, which broke the story Wednesday.

The newspaper also quoted what it identified as a “well-placed Irish-American source” as saying, “If Dan wants it, Dan gets it.”

Mr. Rooney, 76, is a lifelong Republican who endorsed Mr. Obama early in the presidential primaries when he was a long-shot candidate for the Democratic nomination. In April, Mr. Rooney wrote a letter to influential friends declaring his support for Mr. Obama.

Mr. Rooney, co-founder of the Ireland Fund charity, is known as a strong pro-life Roman Catholic.

Other possible candidates for the Dublin position include Caroline Kennedy, who recently withdrew her name from the race to succeed Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton as senator from New York, and labor leader John Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO.

REBUILDING RELATIONS

After kicking out the U.S. ambassador last year, Bolivian President Evo Morales now wants to repair relations with the new Obama administration.

“We want to rebuild our relations with the U.S., and we know that they want a positive relationship, too,” Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca told reporters this week in the capital, La Paz.

He noted that President Obama sent a congratulatory message to Mr. Morales, after voters approved a new constitution for Bolivia. He called the message a “good sign.”

Mr. Morales, an ally of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, expelled U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg in September, accusing the Bush administration of interfering in Bolivia’s internal affairs. The United States strongly denied the charge and retaliated by expelling Bolivian Ambassador Mario Gustavo Guzman.

Mr. Chavez, famous for firebrand anti-American rants, expressed his support for Mr. Morales by ordering U.S. Ambassador Patrick Duddy to leave the country and recalled his ambassador to Washington, Bernardo Alvarez Herrera.

However, unlike his Bolivian colleague, Mr. Chavez is not ready to mend ties with Mr. Obama.

“Any step toward re-establishing the U.S. ambassador in Venezuela will probably take some time,” Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro said Tuesday in Caracas.

Mr. Chavez is still bristling from comments Mr. Obama made in July when, as a Democratic presidential candidate, he called Mr. Chavez “a destructive force” in Latin America.

OBAMA SCHOOL

African ambassadors and corporate colleagues held such a successful inaugural ball that they are sending $35,000 in profits to a school in Kenya named after President Obama.

“Our hope is that the proceeds will help communicate to these Kenyan schoolchildren that, through education and hard work, anything is possible,” said Stephen Hayes, the chief executive officer of the Corporate Council on Africa, one of the chief co-sponsors of the ball.

The money will be used to purchase education supplies for the Barack Obama Secondary School in the village of Kogelo, the home of Mr. Obama’s Kenyan relatives, he said.

“The election and inauguration of President Obama have inspired tremendous pride and hope among us and our African friends and colleagues,” Mr. Hayes added.

The Pan-African Inaugural Celebration was also sponsored by the African Diplomatic Corps, the Kenyan Embassy, the African Union and African Professionals in Washington.

• Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail James Morrison.

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