- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 10, 2000

'Liberty Bell' success

One of the organizers of a diplomatic trip to the Republican National Convention said he was shocked to read in yesterday's Embassy Row that some ambassadors were complaining about the visit to Philadelphia last week.

Leo G.B. Welt, one of the organizers of the Liberty Bell Express train trip to the convention, said many ambassadors had contacted him to express their pleasure with the excursion, especially with the political briefings by high-level Republican officials.

"We could not believe how well it all came together," he said.

Czech Ambassador Alexandr Vondra raved about "a highly interesting, enjoyable and, by all means, memorable stay during the crucial part of the 2000 Republican convention."

Lithuanian Ambassador Stasys Sakalauskas, who attended his first Republican convention, said he "was impressed by the scope and energy of the event."

"Everybody with whom I had a chance to talk was very positive about the arrangements and the convention," he added.

Cambodian Ambassador Roland Eng said he was left with a "memorable and lasting impression."

"The events were filled with sheer enjoyment, varying from meeting and conversing with the amiable people I attended the convention with to the delicious food [at] every meal that was served," Mr. Eng said.

"It has been a success," Portuguese Ambassador Joao Rocha Paris added.

Mr. Welt disputed the remarks made by the ambassadors who talked anonymously to Embassy Row.

They complained about poor organization, a shortage of convention passes, bad seats in the convention hall and, in one instance, the wrong food served to Muslim and Hindu diplomats.

He said there was some initial uncertainty about the convention hall passes to hear George W. Bush give his acceptance speech for the presidential nomination.

Originally he was promised about 80 passes to distribute on a rotating basis to the ambassadors.

However, before Mr. Bush's speech, the Republican staff had produced enough passes for every ambassador and spouse and lower-ranking diplomat, Mr. Welt said.

Some ambassadors had complained of a mad rush for passes when a staffer announced they were being distributed at a hospitality tent, called the "Victory Pavilion," next to the convention hall.

"This was no way to treat ambassadors," one ambassador said.

In the rush, two female diplomats were knocked into a Cheez-Whiz sculpture of Abraham Lincoln, one diplomat told Embassy Row.

Extradition to Ukraine?

Ukraine will have to wait a little longer to prosecute a former prime minister on corruption charges, according to the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.

Ambassador Steven Pifer said that because the United States and Ukraine have no extradition treaty, Pavlo Lazarenko will have to stay in California where he is facing similar charges in a state court.

Mr. Pifer told the Interfax news agency this week that an extradition accord "will take time."

Mr. Lazarenko became Ukraine's prime minister in May 1996 and was dismissed a year later after corruption allegations surfaced against him.

In Ukraine, he is accused of embezzling state funds while he was a regional governor from 1992 to 1995.

In the United States, where he later emigrated, he has pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy, money laundering and transportation of stolen property involving the transfer of $114 million from Ukraine into U.S. bank accounts.

Bulgaria's new mission

The Bulgarian Embassy has a new mission, and it is not just for diplomats anymore.

Bulgarian Prime Minister Ivan Kostov has told Ambassador Philip Dimitrov and his 25 other ambassadors to treat the embassies as second homes for Bulgarian citizens abroad.

He told the ambassadors to turn the embassies "into homes for all Bulgarians abroad, not only for those who are better off, but for the needy as well."

The Bulgarian Embassy here, in its August newsletter, said the prime minister "is looking to improve the way embassies communicate with Bulgarians and to keep its citizens informed with the latest news and government information."

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