- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 19, 2001

When in Rome

President Bush has encountered pressure from Italian-Americans over the selection of a new ambassador to Italy.

However, after dropping one potential nominee, he rejected the ethnic pressure and prepared to select a former Republican fund-raiser with no Italian heritage.

Mel Sembler, who is Jewish, is reportedly Mr. Bush's choice for his envoy in Rome.

Mr. Sembler, 71, is a former Finance Committee chairman of the Republican National Committee. He served as ambassador to Australia under Mr. Bush's father.

The president orginally chose Rockwell Schnabel, a California investment banker, but withdrew his name after New York Gov. George E. Pataki urged him to name Charles Gargano, an Italian-American and Mr. Pataki's economic development adviser.

The Associated Press this week quoted a Pataki spokesman as saying the White House had told the governor's office that the post would go to Mr. Sembler.

Mr. Bush orginally wanted to appoint Mr. Sembler to serve as president of the U.S. Export-Import Bank. But Mr. Sembler, a Florida real estate developer, faced a potential conflict of interest. His company does business with some of the banks that deal with the Export-Import Bank.

Calling on Hrinak

President Bush has turned to one of the most experienced Latin American specialists to serve as ambassador to Brazil.

Mr. Bush plans to nominate Donna Hrinak, now ambassador to Venezuela, the White House said yesterday.

Mrs. Hrinak has been in Venezuela for a year. She served as ambassador to Bolivia from 1998 to 2000 and to the Dominican Republic from 1994 to 1997. She was deputy chief of mission in Honduras from 1989 to 1991.

Her other Latin American assignments included positions in Brazil, Colombia and Mexico.

At the State Department, Mrs. Hrinak has served as deputy assistant secretary for Mexico and the Caribbean and as policy coordinator for the 1994 Summit of the Americas.

Help for Thailand

The U.S. ambassador to Thailand yesterday signed an anti-drug pact to provide the Southeast Asian nation $3.7 million to combat the illegal drug trade.

Ambassador Richard Hecklinger said the money will help increase law enforcement, boost regional cooperation in fighting drug trafficking, reduce demand for illegal narcotics and encourage farmers to stop growing opium.

The funds are part of a continuous effort to combat drug trafficking in Thailand that has cost the United States $82 million since 1974.

Qatar's new embassy

The oil-rich Persian Gulf monarchy of Qatar has paid one of the highest prices for a downtown office building for its new embassy.

The Mid-Atlantic Real Estate Journal reports that Qatar paid $13.6 million for the building at 2555 M St. NW. The price amounts to $336 per square foot for the 40,399-square-foot building, the Journal said.

The embassy, now located at 4200 Wisconsin Ave. NW, declined to comment on the purchase of the property. Castleton Holdings, the seller, purchased the five-story building for $7.1 million in 1999.

The building, a former law office, is located close to hotels favored by Qatari officials visiting Washington. It also is located close to the World Bank and the European Union's office.

Saudi Arabia still holds the record for the most expensive purchase of a diplomatic property, having paid more than $400 per square foot for a building on 30th Street NW 10 years ago.

The Qatar purchase is the sixth most expensive deal per square foot of any Washington office space since 1990, the Journal said.

Canadian shuffle

Keeping track of our northern neighbor, Embassy Row notices that Canada is in the middle of a diplomatic shuffle in key posts in Asia.

The government yesterday announced that Joseph Caron, assistant deputy minister for Asia and Africa issues, will become ambassador to China.

Anthony Burger, a former director of the Asian Development Bank, was appointed consul general in Hong Kong, and Denis Comeau, a diplomat at the Canadian Embassy in Japan, will serve as ambassador to South Korea.

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