- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 21, 2001

Bulgarian resigns

Bulgarian Ambassador Philip Dimitrov yesterday announced his resignation to protest the election of a former communist as president of Bulgaria.

Mr. Dimitrov, a staunch anti-communist, said the election of Georgi Parvanov, leader of the renamed Socialist Party, could be detrimental to Bulgaria's goal of joining NATO.

"The election of Mr. Parvanov does not contribute to Bulgaria's membership in NATO," Mr. Dimitrov told the Bulgarian service of Radio Free Europe in an interview during which he announced he will step down as ambassador.

The Socialist Party voted against permitting NATO planes to fly over Bulgaria during the war in Kosovo, but Parliament, then dominated by the Union of Democratic Forces (UDF), approved the NATO request. Mr. Parvanov on Sunday promised to work for Bulgaria's membership in NATO.

Mr. Dimitrov, a UDF member, said the election of Mr. Parvanov was a bad public relations move for the country.

"Bulgarians must prove that, even if they have elected Mr. Parvanov, they remain directed toward the West," he said. "Let us hope that the government will give such guarantees."

He noted that Parliament is still dominated by the pro-NATO movement of Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg, the former king, providing some hope the country still will be able to achieve membership in the alliance.

Bulgaria has a chance to be invited to join NATO at the planned alliance summit next year "if the [government] ministers continue to work toward that [goal] with all their strength and if their efforts are supported by Parliament."

Mr. Dimitrov, ambassador here since 1998, is a former prime minister and democratic activist who carries a scar above his left eyebrow inflicted by a policeman in a democracy demonstration under the communist regime.


Historic dinner

Ambassador Robel Olaye feels honored by President Bush's decision to host a Ramadan dinner and said the occasion helped show that the war in Afghanistan is not a war against Islam.

Mr. Olaye, the ambassador of Djibouti and the second most senior foreign diplomat in Washington, said Mr. Bush demonstrated his concern for the Muslim faith with the first such observance at the White House attended by a U.S. president.

"We are deeply touched by the understanding and sincerity shown by President Bush to the Islamic faith," Mr. Olaye told Embassy Row yesterday.

"It was a very great event. It was the first time. It was historic."

The dinner Monday night attracted ambassadors from throughout the Muslim world, including Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the dean of the diplomatic corps. Administration guests included Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice.

Muslims fast every day during Islam's most holy month and break their fast after sundown.

The White House dinner began with dates, juice, coffee and tea. The main courses were fish and lamb.

Mr. Olaye also said the dinner helped blunt criticism of the U.S. decision to continue the war in Afghanistan during Ramadan.

"It is now accepted that the war will continue, bearing in mind the plight of innocent civilians," he said.

Mr. Olaye said the "culprits" who attacked the United States on September 11 distorted Islam and "polarized the world."

"But it is ironic how this tragedy can bring about a better understanding of Islam," he added.


Christian envoy's fast

Wendy Chamberlin may be the first Christian diplomat to observe Ramadan.

Mrs. Chamberlin, the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, has decided to join the citizens of the majority Muslim nation in their monthlong daytime fasting.

The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad told the Reuters news agency that Mrs. Chamberlin wants to deepen her understanding of Islam.

"I think it was a sense of cultural empathy," said embassy spokesman John Kincannon. "She wanted to better understand what Muslims experience during Ramadan and gain a sense of spiritual values that Ramadan reflects, such as sympathy with the poor."

Mrs. Chamberlin presented her diplomatic credentials to Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf two days after the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States.


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