- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 17, 2001

More than 700 guests turned out for the Meridian Ball on Friday night, the first major social gathering of the diplomatic corps since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The cause was especially relevant this year, of course, since Meridian International Center's mission to "promote international understanding" through educational outreach, art exhibits and seminars on global issues is now more important than ever.

After smallish dinner parties at 29 embassies, people arrived en masse at historic Meridian House for desserts, a bit of dancing or perhaps a moonlit stroll under the garden's majestic linden trees. Others lingered inside an adjacent tent where champagne and desserts were served.

Inevitably, conversation turned to the current world situation, with small crowds forming around U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Negroponte, Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill (who said he had been up working since 4:30 a.m.), former Sen. Sam Nunn and other political wise men.

Mr. Nunn, a former Senate Armed Services Committee chairman who has written widely on the crisis in recent days, gave the Bush team good marks for "a patient, tough and firm" response, one he thought was particularly "sensitive to the niceties" of international diplomacy.

Most ambassadors were unstinting in their support of America's decision to retaliate against terrorists' attacks.

"We stand with the United States," said Singaporean Ambassador Heng-Chee Chan, noting that the air strikes on Afghanistan were "a legitimate act of self-defense under Article 51 of the U.N. charter."

No one could have said it more simply than Kuwait's newly arrived envoy, Salem Abdullah al-Sabah, who quietly expressed his tiny country's continuing gratitude for its liberation after the Gulf War.

"America was with us in our hour of need," Mr. al-Sabah said, "and we are with America now."

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