- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 29, 2000

Diplomatic mayors

The mayor of Athens is elevating urban politics to a global level as he attempts to organize mayors worldwide to discuss issues from the economy to the environment.

Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos this week practiced his "diplomacy of the cities" in Washington, where he met D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams and invited him to visit the Greek capital for the Summit of World Mayors in 2002.

He signed a "protocol of cooperation" with Mr. Williams that calls for the two cities to share information on culture, business, city management and other urban issues.

Mr. Avramopoulos praised Mr. Williams for his "excellent job in running the city of Washington, serving the citizens of the U.S. capital and assuming a more prominent international profile."

"In an age of globalization, both the city and the individual citizen will grow in importance," Mr. Avramopoulos told our reporter Gus Constantine at a press breakfast yesterday at the residence of Greek Ambassador Alexandre Philon.

He noted that classical Greece, like present-day America, built an empire based on trade and commerce and turned it into a Golden Age of direct participatory democracy, which put a premium on individual rights.

Mr. Avramopoulos also discussed Athens' preparations to host the 2004 Olympics. He said the city is "changing fast and in a dynamic way." He noted that Athens has reduced air pollution by 40 percent and aims to become one of the cleanest cities in Europe.

The Athens mayor first launched his city diplomacy during the Bosnian conflict in 1995 when he established contacts with cities throughout southeastern Europe across ethnic lines.

Last year, he established a cooperation protocol with Ali Mufit Gurduna, mayor of Istanbul, after earthquakes hit Greece and Turkey. The twin tragedies helped bring the regional rivals closer together.

Mr. Avramopoulos is due to meet today with Mr. Gurduna, who is visiting Washington for an annual conference on Turkish-American relations.

While he is optimistic on the future of Greek-Turkish relations, Mr. Avramopoulos said Turkey must take the initiative toward settling the division of Cyprus. Turkey is the only country that recognizes the Turkish-Cypriot government on Northern Cyprus.

"We are now looking forward to new deeds on the question of Cyprus, by far the most serious issue confronting the Aegean neighbors," he said.

Support for Africa bill

African ambassadors are thankful for a new coalition of Democrats who are rallying behind the beleaguered Africa trade bill that has languished in Congress for nearly five years.

Mauritius Ambassador Chitmansing Jesseramsing, one of the African diplomats leading the fight for passage of the bill, praised the New Democrat Coalition, which plans to announce support for the measure at a 9:30 a.m. news conference tomorrow.

"This is a new group of Democrats giving us support in addition to the Republicans," he said yesterday.

The coalition includes Reps. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, Jim Davis of Florida, Cal Dooley of California, Ron Kind of Wisconsin, James P. Moran of Virginia, Tim Roemer of Indiana, Adam Smith of Washington and Ellen O. Tauscher of California.

New York Rep. Charles B. Rangel, the ranking Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee and one of the House's strongest supporters of the bill, will join the coalition members at the news conference at the Reserve Officers' Association at One Constitution Ave. NE.

The coalition expects more than 100 "members of the Washington, D.C., trade community" to show up for the news conference, said spokesman Matthew Frankel.

Different versions of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act have passed both houses and are in a House-Senate conference committee, which is expected to report the bill out this week.

Both bills would lift tariffs on textile products from the 48 countries of sub-Saharan Africa, but the Senate version would require the countries to use American cloth instead of African textiles.

Mr. Jesseramsing said the Senate version "would be impossible to work with."

Failure to pass the bill "would be a terrible letdown" to Africa, he said.

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