- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 2, 2002

Mourning queen mother

British Ambassador Sir Christopher Meyer yesterday opened a book of condolences for visitors to express their sorrow over the death of the mother of Queen Elizabeth II.

Americans, meanwhile, continued to place flowers at the gate of the British Embassy to show their respect for the queen mother, who died Saturday.

"The Queen has been deeply touched by the many messages of sympathy received after the death of her mother … . The ambassador on Her Majesty's behalf would like to thank all those who have so kindly sent words of comfort at this sad time," the embassy said in a statement.

The death came as the ambassador was preparing for British Prime Minister Tony Blair's visit to President Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas, this week.

Mr. Meyer was also preparing for National Tartan Day, one of his favorite diplomatic receptions. Two years ago, the ambassador began hosting an annual reception for visiting Scots and the Scottish-American community and was looking forward to next week's gathering, which would be his last in Washington. Mr. Meyer is expected to end his term as ambassador here in February.

The reception was canceled because it was scheduled for the same day as the queen mother's funeral on April 9. Jack McConnell, the first minister of the Scottish Parliament, and Sir David Steel, the parliament's presiding officer, have also canceled their Tartan Day visit to Washington.

The book of condolences will be open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. until next Tuesday at the embassy, 3100 Massachusetts Ave. NW.

Moldova 'witch hunt'

The former ambassador from Moldova accuses the new communist government in his homeland of intimidating the political opposition.

Ceslav Ciobanu, who was dismissed in February, told Embassy Row that Moldova is in a "veritable political crisis."

"Communist authorities started a witch hunt in an attempt to intimidate the democratic opposition," he said in an e-mail.

Vlad Cubreacov, "one of the most prominent leaders of the opposition Popular Christian Democratic Party and a member of the Moldovan and European parliaments disappeared [March 21] under confused circumstances," Mr. Ciobanu said.

The Moldovan attorney general asked parliament to revoke Mr. Cubreacov's legislative immunity after he participated in a major anti-communist protest in February.

The Moldovan government accused Mr. Ciobanu of corruption, a charge the former ambassador strongly denied.

He is now a senior research scholar at James Madison University in Virginia.

Global food chain

The U.S. ambassador to India, a self-described "farm boy," is proposing creative tariffs to promote freer trade among agricultural products in the Indian and U.S. markets.

Ambassador Robert D. Blackwill, in a recent address to a farm forum in New Delhi, said, "The difficulties of agricultural trade are familiar to all of us.

"Too often, around the world, this commerce suffers from extremely high duties, vague and discriminatory import practices and unnecessary sanitary limitations. Such restrictions reduce returns to those in this indispensable business and decrease choices for ordinary citizens."

He embraced a "variable tariff" policy as a step toward free trade. Mr. Blackwill noted that the United States and Chile solved a trade dispute involving grapes by an "inspired idea" centering on the differences in the growing seasons in the Northern and Southern hemispheres.

The high U.S. tariffs are maintained during the fall when American grapes are harvested, but lowered in the spring when Chilean grapes are ready for market.

A similar result occurred in India when the government lowered tariffs on imported apples in 1999. Foreign-grown apples were still being sold at about three times the price of local apples, and Indian growers realized they could charge more for the domestic product.

Mr. Blackwill, the son of Midwest wheat farmers, concluded that "liberalizing or eliminating barriers to food products almost always result in more income for farmers and more choices for consumers."

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