- The Washington Times - Friday, December 22, 2000

A holiday wish

Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright has penned a version of "T'was the Night Before Christmas" for world-weary reporters who have followed her around the globe for the last four years.

In her variation, Mrs. Albright envisions "the hour before deadline." There is no news at the State Department, and all the reporters are preparing for the holidays.

Suddenly a cable of such importance arrives on her desk that she leaves immediately to solve some foreign crisis.

The reporters, uncharacteristically whining, complain that they don't want to go.

She drags them to the airport, but on the plane she has to deal with restless Republicans who can't wait for the presidential transition.

"And then in an instant, up on the roof,

"I hear the pawing and prancing of Republican hoofs.

"As I drew up my head and was turning around,

"Down the hatch came Colin Powell with a smile and a bound.

"He was dressed all in style, from his head to his foot,

"And his shoes had the shine of a new Army boot."

Well, the reporters are impressed with the new nominee for secretary of state, but Mrs. Albright tells him to go away because she has one last mission. She promises to wrap up the plane in a bow for him when she returns.

Mrs. Albright gets quite poetical as she describes the scene from the plane and makes a pun at the expense of a certain African nation.

"The moon on the breast of the new fallen snow,

"Gave luster of midday to objects below.

"The election just finished, the feeling was sad

"But wait. That's not snow. I was knee-deep in Chad."

Finally she thanks the press and praises its critical role in a democracy.

"With a wink of my eye, and a tip of my cap,

"I thank you very much for indulging the last lap."

Diplomatic holidays

Diplomats from Christian countries tend to get the most attention at this time of year, with Christmas and sparkling trees and holiday parties.

But this final December of the year 2000 also holds special meaning for Jewish and Muslim diplomats.

Israeli Ambassador David Ivry lit a candle last night in a ceremony at the Israeli Embassy to mark the beginning of Hanukkah. The day before, he helped give gifts to poor children from Washington at an embassy party.

Muslim ambassadors are preparing for a holiday feast next week with the conclusion of the holy month of Ramadan, which fell in December this year because of the Islamic lunar calendar.

Egyptian Ambassador M. Nabil Fahmy plans to attend morning prayers at the mosque on Massachusetts Avenue and then join family and friends for the traditional Eid, which one diplomat said is like a Thanksgiving meal.

Mr. Fahmy said the monthlong daytime fasting during Ramadan is a humbling experience that makes him understand the plight of the poor and hungry.

"It's a month that makes you sit back and think," he said. It's the one month a year when people realize we are all mortal. It brings you closer to God."

Bahrain Ambassador Mohammed Abdul Ghaffar will also be at the mosque for morning prayers when Ramadan ends on Tuesday or Wednesday, depending on the first sighting of the full moon.

Afterward, he will host a luncheon for the embassy staff and give gifts to their children.

"It's a great day after one month of fasting," he said. "It also has a social meaning, as rich people help the poor."

'Tiger' from China

Expect a new Chinese ambassador next year who is a personal friend of the Bush family.

That is the word from Los Angeles Times columnist Jim Mann, who reported this week that Yang Jiechi, now deputy foreign minister, will replace Ambassador Li Zhaoxing.

Mr. Yang is known to friends as "Tiger," a nickname he picked up when he attended the London School of Economics.

He became close to President-elect George W. Bush's father on a private trip to China in 1977.

Mr. Yang rose through the ranks of China's diplomatic service and once served in a senior post at the Chinese Embassy in Washington.

• Embassy Row will be on hiatus next week.

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