- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 21, 2002

Diplomatic pioneer
Claudia Fritsche has a big mission from a little country.
As the new ambassador from Liechtenstein, Mrs. Fritsche is determined to draw attention to her Alpine country that few Americans have heard of.
"I always seem to get the pioneer jobs," she told Embassy Row yesterday.
Mrs. Fritsche was her country's first ambassador to the United Nations in 1990. While serving in New York, she was accredited as Liechtenstein's first ambassador to the United States in 2000. Seven weeks ago, she arrived in Washington to open an embassy and serve full time as her country's ambassador here.
"It's a totally different ballgame," she said, referring to multilateral diplomacy at the United Nations and bilateral diplomacy in the United States.
To give perspective to her country when she was at the United Nations, she used to say it was twice the size of Manhattan. Here, she compares her 60-square-mile nation of 34,000 citizens to Washington, which is only eight square miles larger.
The principality of Liechtenstein, bounded by Switzerland and Austria, is a wealthy country with a prosperous high-tech industry. Liechtenstein is also noted as the world's second-largest producer of dental products, the ambassador said, flashing a perfect smile.
"It was a pre-eminent task to put Liechtenstein on the map at the U.N. Now I'm working to put it on the map here," Mrs. Fritsche said.
Liechtensteiners share Europe's skepticism over U.S. efforts to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq; however, they are totally supportive of the war against terrorism, she said.
Liechtenstein, a main global financial center, recently overhauled its banking laws to prevent money laundering and got itself removed from the black list of the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering, an international watchdog established by the Group of Seven countries in 1989.
"The Liechtenstein government had to recognize we had shortcomings in our financial system," Mrs. Fritsche said.
Liechtenstein also recently froze five bank accounts linked to Al Taqua, a suspected Middle Eastern terrorist group.
She said her country would support a decision to remove Saddam if it is endorsed by the U.N. Security Council. Referring to the disagreement between the Bush administration and several European countries, such as France and Germany, Mrs. Fritsche said she understands that Americans can grow impatient with their allies.
"Americans are sometimes puzzled at the way Europeans think," she said.

Cuba change unlikely
U.S.-Cuba relations are unlikely to budge during the Bush administration, despite farm-state Republicans who are pushing to ease the 40-year-old economic embargo, said Edward Gonzalez, a Cuba analyst at Rand and a political science professor at the University of California at Los Angeles.
"After the recent elections, President Bush is in a very strong position. He has the muscle to prevent any changes and probably stop it in its tracks," said Mr. Gonzalez, speaking at a Center for a Free Cuba breakfast Tuesday.
Mr. Bush has promised time and again to veto any measure to ease the U.S. embargo on Cuba. But a majority in the current Congress, mostly Democrats, with the help of Republicans eager to help constituents sell rice, corn, beef and wheat to the impoverished nation, voted to lift the ban on U.S. travel to Cuba, to ease the embargo and to offer Cuba credit to buy U.S. farm goods. Parliamentary procedures in the House's Republican leadership prevented the measures from reaching the president's desk.
"At least until 2004, it will be a stalemate," said Mr. Gonzalez. "The Republican candidates who won are indebted to him. They will do what he wants."
Mr. Gonzalez was in town to promote his first novel, "Ernesto's Ghost," a historical fiction spy story that is getting rave reviews on Amazon.com and from academics who specialize in Cuban politics.
"Gonzalez weaves a tale of politics and lust, Cuban state security and the CIA, the suspense of a whodunit, and a nuanced, subtle, and impressive command of Cuban politics and society," wrote Jorge Dominguez, Harvard's Cuba specialist. "It's quite a treat to read a novel both learned and fun."


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