- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 18, 2001

Erato Kozakou Marcoullis has an edge on her fellow ambassadors as the Washington diplomatic corps looks ahead to Saturday's inauguration of President-elect George W. Bush.

The Cypriot envoy is not the most senior ambassador, nor is Cyprus a major power. But she is an honorary Texan.

Mrs. Kozakou Marcoullis met Gov. Bush shortly after she arrived in Washington in 1998. Texas was the first state she visited, and she had an hourlong talk with Mr. Bush, who had not yet announced his candidacy.

At the end of their meeting, Mr. Bush declared her an honorary Texan.

"I look forward to meeting him again and to cultivating that relationship," Mrs. Kazakou Marcoullis said.

That goal is shared by 170 ambassadors here, who not only want to meet the new president but must get to know a new team of foreign policy officials ranging from the State Department to the U.S. Trade Representative's Office.

According to long-standing tradition, foreign heads of state remain at home for U.S. inaugurations, leaving it to their ambassadors to represent them at the ceremony.

"That's the guidance that has been issued again this time to diplomats here as well as to all our posts overseas to tell people who might inquire," said State Department spokesman Richard Boucher. "It's just a matter of protocol and handling, and different countries do this in different ways."

Led by Saudi Arabia's Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the dean of the diplomatic corps, the ambassadors will view the 11:30 a.m. swear-

ing-in ceremony from a special section set aside for dignitaries. Many will attend a lunch for the diplomatic corps afterward at Blair House, the presidential guest residence.

Newly arrived Canadian Ambassador Michael Kergin has other plans. After the inauguration, he will return to the Canadian Embassy, the only diplomatic mission on Pennsylvania Avenue with a view of the inaugural parade route.

He has invited hundreds of guests for a luncheon reception to watch the festivities. They may also have a bird's eye view of planned demonstrations.

Mr. Kergin already knows Mr. Bush's nominee for trade representative, one of the most important posts for the United States' largest business partner. The bilateral trade between the two countries is worth $1.5 billion per day.

The ambassador met Robert Zoellick when he served at the Washington embassy as a political officer, and Mr. Zoellick was a foreign policy adviser to Secretary of State James A. Baker III in the first Bush administration.

Mr. Kergin said the relationship with Mr. Zoellick will be "very critical to us."

The reception will be the ambassador's first major social function since taking up his new position in September.

He has invited hundreds of guests for a luncheon reception to watch the festivities. They may also have a bird's-eye view of planned demonstrations.

"It's a bipartisan event," he said.

Many ambassadors have other reasons to hope for good relations with the incoming administration.

"We are delighted that the new U.S. president speaks Spanish, knows the Hispanic culture and has extensive experience in Latin America," said Venezuelan Ambassador Alfredo Toro Hardy.

Djibouti Ambassador Roble Olhaye, the dean of the African diplomatic corps, is pleased with the nominations of Colin Powell as secretary of state and Condoleezza Rice as national security adviser, the first blacks tapped for those positions.

"It is unprecedented. It is historic," he said.

Of all diplomats going to the inaugural ceremony, the ambassador from Bahrain may be the best prepared. Ambassador Muhammad Abdul Ghaffar attended President Clinton's second swearing-in and knows what it means to sit outside on a cold January day.

"The last time, I wrapped myself up perfectly," he said. "I had on my thermals, gloves, hat, coat."

• Ben Barber contributed to this report.

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