- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 22, 2003

Photographic memories

Romanian Ambassador Sorin Ducaru was moved deeply the first time he saw the faded photo of Romanian-Americans meeting President Truman in 1947 to protest the communist takeover of his country.

He recalled the picture earlier this month when foreign ministers from Romania and six other East European nations met with President Bush to celebrate their admission to NATO.

The 56 years between the two photos made Mr. Ducaru think of the lost generations that suffered under Soviet domination and of the freedom their children now enjoy.

“I saw this picture and thought, ‘This is historic,’” Mr. Ducaru told Embassy Row as he looked again at the eight men standing with Mr. Truman in the White House Rose Garden, shortly after communists ousted Romania’s constitutional monarchy.

The ambassador found the picture in the museum of St. Mary’s Romanian Orthodox Church on a visit to Cleveland last year. Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana presented a copy to Mr. Bush.

“This picture shows how strongly people cared in 1947,” Mr. Ducaru said. “This is not only a Romanian story. It happened throughout central Europe.”

The ambassador, who turns 39 next month, is part of the generation that rebuilt Romania after the 1989 uprising that toppled dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, who was executed later. Before becoming ambassador, he served as head of the NATO committee in the Foreign Ministry.

For him, the invitation to join the trans-Atlantic alliance is a “mission accomplished,” he said.

However, no sooner did Romania receive an invitation to join NATO than it found itself part of the dispute between the United States and France about the war in Iraq. Romania and other East European nations sided with Washington, incurring the wrath of Paris.

Mr. Ducaru hopes the diplomatic wounds will heal quickly.

“We do not want to have to chose between Europe and the United States,” he said. “You don’t have to be schizophrenic to have a strong European identity and to be friends with the United States.”

Mr. Ducaru says he believes that Romania will improve NATO’s strategic position because of its location on the Black Sea and its specialized mountain troops and airlift capabilities.

He said Romania and the other nations once under communist control bring a “moral clarity” to NATO.

“We have a fresh memory of fighting for freedom,” he said. “These countries have waited half a century to join the trans-Atlantic family.”

As the foreign ministers gathered to have their picture taken with Mr. Bush after the NATO ceremony, the ambassador said to Mr. Geoana, “Today, we will have a new photo.”

Malaysia sees paranoia

The U.S. ambassador to Malaysia remained unconvinced yesterday, after the country’s foreign minister insisted that his country was safe from terrorism.

Ambassador Marie T. Huhtala told reporters in Malaysia that the briefing “was very helpful, but we still have concerns and constantly re-evaluating the situation.”

Last week the State Department updated a travel advisory issued in November that warned about the “possibility of terrorist attacks against American citizens and American interests in Malaysia.”

Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar told the foreign ambassadors that the travel warnings were “unjustifiable,” Agence France-Presse reported.

“We deeply regret the issuance of such travel advisories because they do not reflect, in our view, the genuine security situation in Malaysia nor the reality on the ground here,” Mr. Syed Hamid said.

“We consider it unjustifiable to lump Malaysia together with some other countries as possible sites of terrorist attacks merely by generalization, and we don’t find any genuine or credible evidence to that fact.”

He said that “baseless fears and perceived terrorist attacks” have damaged public confidence in Malaysia, which has been “virtually free of any incidence of violence and terrorism.”

The State Department advisory noted that since mid-2001, Malaysian authorities have arrested more than 80 members of the Jemaah Islamiya group, which is linked to Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda network.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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