- The Washington Times - Friday, July 12, 2002

Mississippi diplomacy

The Slovenian ambassador has visions of Mark Twain in mind when he talks about a Slovenian man on a quest to rival Huckleberry Finn's.

"As we sit here," Ambassador Davorin Kracun told Embassy Row over lunch at the Monocle this week, "a Slovenian is swimming down the Mississippi River."

Marathon swimmer Martin Strel jumped in the river at its source in Lake Itasca in Minnesota on the Fourth of July. He expects to finish in the Gulf of Mexico around September 11 on the anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

"His project is designed to honor the victims of the attacks," Mr. Kracun said. "We are very proud to have this Slovenian making this very American challenge."

Mr. Strel, 47, will set a new world's record if he completes the 2,340-mile swim. He already holds the record for the longest swim by stroking 1,776 miles along the Danube River in 2000.

"His project is called 'Eye to Eye' because he will be eye to eye with the river," the ambassador said.

Mr. Strel begins each day's swim at 9 a.m. and takes several breaks along the way for soup, pasta and water. He is accompanied by a team in a large boat, three kayaks and a canoe. A van follows them on shore.

The intrepid swimmer will face danger in the river from alligators, poisonous snakes and pollution.

Meanwhile, Mr. Kracun is navigating his own marathon, as he prepares for what he hopes will be Slovenia's admission to NATO later this year. Slovenia expected to be admitted in the last round of expansion of the alliance in 1997.

"NATO for Slovenia is our main goal in international policy," he said. "The progress of our independence will be advanced with our membership in NATO."

Slovenia's other main goal is to join the European Union.

Mr. Kracun hopes to get positive answers when NATO meets in November in the Czech capital, Prague, and the European Union meets in December in Denmark.

Slovenian public opinion still supports membership in NATO, but is skeptical of the outcome.

"Public opinion is cautious because of the bitter experience of the past," Mr. Kracun said. "They simply don't believe we are so close."

Slovenia, the most stable country of the former Yugoslavia, was considered a strong candidate for the last round of expansion, but fell victim to internal NATO politics that finally limited the new members to Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic.

Slovenia is also preparing for a presidential election on Nov. 10 with Prime Minister Janex Drnovsek and France Arhar, former director of the Central Bank, as the two leading candidates.

"They are two men of very high credibility," Mr. Kracun said.

Envoy exonerated

Thomas Borer, the Swiss diplomat whose career was ruined by newspaper stories of a sex scandal, was exonerated this week when a woman said she lied about the affair and two journalists responsible for the stories resigned.

However, the Swiss Foreign Ministry says it has no plans to reinstate Mr. Borer, who was well-known in Washington in the 1990s as Switzerland's envoy who dealt with the notorious Nazi banking legacy.

Mr. Borer was recalled from his position as ambassador to Germany earlier this year after the Swiss newspaper, SonntagsBlick, reported he was cheating on his American wife, Shawne Fielding, a former Miss Texas contestant. Mr. Borer strenuously denied the charges.

On Sunday, the German woman linked to Mr. Borer said she was paid to smear him. News reports from Switzerland did not say who supposedly paid her. The newspaper's editor in chief and the Berlin correspondent who wrote the stories resigned.

The dashing diplomat and his beauty queen wife were popular in Berlin social circles.

Chamberlin's new job

The former U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, who resigned because of security concerns for her children, has been appointed an assistant administrator at the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Wendy Chamberlin will work in the bureau for Asia and Near East affairs, the White House announced this week.

The ambassador, a single mother, left Pakistan in May after her two teenage daughters were evacuated earlier because of terrorist attacks in the capital, Islamabad.

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