- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 19, 2000

Center-right admiration

President-elect George W. Bush has been sent a big fan letter from center-right political leaders in Central Europe.
The letter is from more than two dozen politicians, including two prime ministers. It represents 14 political parties in 11 nations that formerly were behind the Iron Curtain.
"We are writing to express our heartfelt congratulations on your electoral victory," they said in their letter from Budapest on Dec. 15.
"As representatives of the leading center-right parties from central Europe, we are delighted and proud that you will soon become the 43rd president of the United States of America."
The political leaders, meeting in the second annual Conference of the Central European Center Right, described themselves as Mr. Bush's "partners."
"We view your election victory as an inspiration and a sign that our common values will prevail in the arena of ideas," they said.
They endorsed free markets and free trade between the United States and Europe.
"We agree that the best way forward for our societies, which still struggle with the legacies of communism, is by a steadfast commitment to free markets, liberty and trans-Atlantic cooperation, including a Euro-Atlantic free-trade area.
"We share your belief that economic freedom, the promotion of traditional values and a commitment to strong national security are the best guarantee for our future."

The letter was signed by representatives from Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Macedonia, Poland, Romania, the Slovak Republic and Slovenia.

Prime Ministers Mart Laar of Estonia and Mikulas Dzurinda of Slovakia were among the signers.

South African image

South African Ambassador Sheila Sisulu is showing off her country's new coat of arms on Christmas cards this season.
The crest features a secretary bird with its wings spread, a rising sun, elephant tusks and other symbols of the new South Africa.
The motto "diverse people unite" is written in the Khoisan language to honor the oldest known inhabitants of the southern tip of the continent.
The tusks symbolize an elephant's legendary "wisdom, strength, moderation and eternity."
The bird is crowned by a rising sun, the "symbol of the source of life, of light and the ultimate wholeness of humanity."
Mrs. Sisulu's card also explains other symbols in the coat of arms, which include a shield to represent strength; two human figures who stand for the "common humanity and heritage" of South Africans; a spear and club called a knobkierie for defense and authority; and a protea, a diamond-shaped abstract design, to symbolize beauty and "the flowering of [South Africa's] potential as a nation in pursuit of the African renaissance."

'Viking' set to leave

Icelandic Ambassador Jon Hannibalsson, a true Viking of the diplomatic corps, is hinting at his imminent departure from Washington.
In his Christmas greeting to friends, Mr. Hannibalsson said this holiday season may be his last as ambassador to the United States.
"It is all the more reason for us to thank you for your friendship and for sharing with us our adventurous American odyssey," he said in his note that was also signed by his wife, Bryndis Scharm.
Mr. Hannibalsson, who presented his diplomatic credentials in March 1998, said the past year has been a special one for Iceland.
"There was a lot to celebrate: a thousand years since the historic Vineland voyage of Leif the Lucky; a thousand years since Christianity was adopted in Iceland," he said.
Mr. Hannibalsson was also proud of the Viking exhibit, which was featured at the Smithsonian and celebrated Leif Ericson's journey to the New World about 500 years before Columbus.
He and his wife traveled widely in the United States and Canada to attend events commemorating the millennium celebration of the trip.

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