- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 5, 2001

Is God a Scotsman?

British Ambassador Sir Christopher Meyer stood on the West Terrace of the Capitol last year and looked out over the Washington Mall under a clear blue April sky as hundreds of Scottish-Americans gathered there to celebrate National Tartan Day.

"I thought at the time, God must be a Scotsman," he told Embassy Row yesterday while he made the final preparations for this year's ceremony.

With Washington's typically fickle spring weather, Mr. Meyer is praying for a repeat of last year. The forecast is encouraging with a prediction of sunshine in the 60s.

The ambassador is excited that Scotland's most famous actor, Sir Sean Connery, will be the featured guest at the Capitol ceremony, which begins today at 10:45 a.m.

Mr. Connery, who is expected to wear his kilt, will receive the Wallace Award from the American Scottish Foundation, which bestows the annual medal named for Scotland's medieval hero, William Wallace, the subject of the "Braveheart" film.

Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott received the award last year for his sponsorship of a resolution in 1998 that established the annual holiday to celebrate Scottish-American heritage. The Mississippi Republican wore a kilt on the Senate floor last year and plans to do the same today.

"It is terrific to have Sir Sean here," Mr. Meyer said.

Mr. Connery is expected to attend the annual Tartan Day reception tonight at the British Embassy.

Mr. Meyer said he wanted to help begin a tradition by hosting the reception to bring attention to Scotland and the contributions of Scottish-Americans to the development of the United States.

"When I arrived here, I discovered we marked St. Patrick's Day by inviting a large number of people here from Northern Ireland. It occurred to me that we should be doing something for Scotland," he said.

"The moment was right. The time had come to mark the other nations of the United Kingdom."

Henry McLeish, the first minister of Scotland, is also in town for the three-day celebration that ends Saturday with a daylong festival on the Mall at Third Street NW, organized by the St. Andrew's Society of Washington.

Mr. McLeish, in a message on the tartanday.org Web site, noted the Scottish roots of American history.

"Almost half the signatories of the Declaration of Independence were of Scottish descent and the governors of nine of the original 13 states had Scottish blood," he wrote.

Mr. McLeish will hold a 9 a.m. news conference today at the National Press Club.

The celebration will also feature a forum tomorrow on the Scottish legacy in America. The 2 p.m. panel discussion with four Scottish professors is open to the public at George Washington University's media building, 805 21st St. NW.

Thaw in Malaysia?

The prime minister of Malaysia, after warning of foreign interference in the country's domestic affairs, held a formal meeting with the U.S. ambassador this week for the first time since the envoy took up his post two years ago.

Mahathir Mohammed held an hourlong discussion with Ambassador B. Lynn Pascoe on Tuesday, the Reuters news agency reported.

They covered a "wide range of issues," a Malaysian official said, without elaborating.

Mr. Pascoe had only met Mr. Mahathir at diplomatic dinners, official receptions or in meetings with other U.S. officials but never privately, Reuters said.

Mr. Mahathir last week expressed his displeasure after U.S. Embassy officials met with the wife of Anwar Ibrahim, the former deputy prime minister who is serving a 15-year prison term on charges of corruption and sexual misconduct.

The United States considers Anwar a political prisoner who was convicted on false allegations. Relations between the two countries have been tense since his conviction.

Mr. Mahathir, in a speech, said, "If we invite [foreigners] to interfere today, don't be angry if they want to decide who becomes prime minister, minister and so forth tomorrow."

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