- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 13, 2003

Sit down and shut up
The former Latvian ambassador to the United States was shocked when French President Jacques Chirac told his country and other East European nations to "shut up" after they expressed support for the U.S. position on Iraq.
"The last time we were told that, it was from … the Soviet Union," Ojars Kalnins told Embassy Row on a recent visit to Washington.
Mr. Kalnins said Mr. Chirac has helped create a split between the new democracies of the former Warsaw Pact and France and Germany, the power brokers of the European Union and the two nations in Europe most opposed to removing Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein by force.
Mr. Chirac last month reacted angrily when 10 East European nations published a letter of support for United States, calling their position "infantile" and "dangerous."
"They missed a great opportunity to shut up," he said.
Mr. Kalnins said the Eastern European nations invited to join the European Union were distressed by Mr. Chirac's threat that they were risking their potential membership by acting "frivolously."
"We were always told that the EU is a democratic organization with all members having an equal voice," Mr. Kalnins said.
"So what do we do? We speak out, and Chirac says we should shut up."
Mr. Kalnins, Latvia's first ambassador to the United States after the fall of communism, noted that he spent years trying to focus attention on his small Baltic nation. Suddenly, Latvia is all the rage.
Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga visited President Bush on Presidents Day last month, just after Mr. Chirac's outburst, and won admiration from average Americans impressed by her stand against the French. The Latvian Embassy was deluged by congratulatory messages.
"After all those years of trying to get people to know where Latvia is, all of a sudden we are a household name," Mr. Kalnins said.
The former ambassador is now director of the Latvian Institute, which promotes Latvian culture, and the Latvian Trans-Atlantic Organization, which is helping prepare Latvia for NATO membership.

Diplomatic courtesies
The proper name for french fries may still be a matter of debate, but new French Ambassador Jean-David Levitte has experienced nothing but diplomatic courtesies despite the sharp strains in current French-American relations.
Addressing a throng of reporters at a breakfast organized by the Christian Science Monitor yesterday, the former top French representative at the United Nations recalled an embassy function last week on Africa to which top State Department, Pentagon and CIA officials were invited.
"Everybody showed up," he noted.
The ambassador said President Bush had words of praise for France's contributions to the war on terrorism, when he presented his diplomatic credentials at the White House in December, and even the personal conversations between Mr. Bush and French President Jacques Chirac have been "warm and cordial" despite the virulent disagreements over Iraq.
Our correspondent, David R. Sands, reports that Mr. Levitte passed up an opportunity to enter the fray over the renaming of french fries and French toast by a House of Representatives committee as "freedom" fries and toast. But the ambassador conceded that the bitter criticism of his country has caused him "great sadness."
"The more French bashing we see in the United States, the more it fuels anti-Americanism in France," he said. "We have a strong feeling against the war, but we do not have strong anti-Americanism to date in France."
He cited polls that found strong positive attitudes among ordinary Frenchmen for American freedoms, culture and products.
That sentiment might be tested in June, as France is slated to host the Group of Eight summit in the French Alpine town of Evian, close to the Swiss border in France.
Asked if Mr. Bush could expect a rude reception this summer, Mr. Levitte replied, "My hope is that it will once again be a summit of friendship and smiles."
But he noted that Evian was chosen for more than its scenic beauty and to avoid the violent demonstrations that have accompanied a string of international gatherings in recent years.
"The fact that Evian is on a lake means that you will either have to swim very well or you will have difficulty demonstrating your anger," he said.

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