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Embassy Row

- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 2, 2011

PRESIDENT IN PARIS

Fifty years ago this week, a young American president traveled to France on his first state visit. But his three-day trip was overshadowed by his beautiful wife, who charmed the French and endeared herself to the frosty French leader, Charles de Gaulle.

"I do not think it altogether inappropriate to introduce myself to this audience," President John F. Kennedy told reporters at a news conference on the last day of the visit. "I am the man who accompanied Jacqueline Kennedy to Paris, and I have enjoyed it."

From the moment Air Force One touched down at Orly Airport, the stunning first lady captured the attention of the French public, who lined the streets of Paris shouting, "Vive Jacqueline!"

The state visit from May 31 to June 2, 1961, is being remembered by the U.S. Embassy in Paris with a photo display, news clips and links to the Kennedy presidential library.

"The Kennedys' three-day visit to France was a celebrated moment in the U.S.-French relationship," U.S. Ambassador Charles Rivkin said this week, as he announced the commemoration on the embassy website (http://france.usembassy.gov/presidentkennedy.html).

"A young, dynamic but untested U.S. president met the legendary French leader, whose World War II role and political vision had long made him a global figure."

Mr. Rivkin also noted the "extraordinarily warm welcome that greeted the French-speaking Mrs. Kennedy at every stop."

Kennedy, meanwhile, talked with de Gaulle on issues ranging from the status of Berlin, which was not yet divided by the wall, the war in Algeria and the situation in Vietnam, where Kennedy had sent 400 Green Berets as special advisers to the South Vietnamese army.

Kennedy arrived in Paris about six weeks after the humiliation of the failed U.S. attempt to overthrow Cuba's Fidel Castro in the Bay of Pigs invasion and only days before he would face down Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev at a meeting in Vienna, Austria.

'NO BEGGING BOWL'

Pakistan wants the United States to open its markets and focus relations more on trade than aid, Pakistani Ambassador Husain Haqqani said this week.

Mr. Haqqani insisted that change in Pakistan, rife with corruption and instability, will come from within and that foreign aid often creates domestic political problems.

"There is no begging bowl," he said.

Mr. Haqqani was addressing a conference organized by the Center for Global Development, which released a report Wednesday urging the United States to delay the distribution of $7.5 billion in aid until Pakistan adopts widespread economic reforms.

"If the United States opens its markets for Pakistan more, it would be a much better way of helping," he said. "The role of aid should be that of a catalyst for us to accomplish that change on our own."

IT'S COMPLICATED

A recession last year crippled Romania's ability to purchase second-hand F-16 combat planes from the United States, complicating further negotiations, the U.S. ambassador in Budapest said Thursday.

"This is a very complicated negotiation because at some point it requires a financial agreement," Ambassador Mark Gitenstein told reporters.

In March 2010, Romania announced that it would spend $1.3 billion to buy 24 fighter jets, but a severe recession hit the country in June.

The price tag for the jets now would amount to 1 percent of Romania's gross domestic product. A former finance minister called the purchase "impossible."

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or email jmorrison@washingtontimes.com. The column is published on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

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