- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 14, 2004

Spain’s nightmare

Spanish Ambassador Javier Ruperez was awakened at 4 a.m. Thursday by a call from the White House.

President Bush was trying to reach King Juan Carlos and Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar. That was when Mr. Ruperez learned of the bombings at the Madrid train stations, Spain’s worst terrorist attack.

Since that nightmarish day last week, Mr. Ruperez has been busy gathering information from his government to pass on to Washington, briefing reporters and receiving dignitaries expressing sympathies at the Spanish Embassy.

Mr. Bush laid a wreath on Friday by the Spanish flag outside the ambassador’s residence, and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell on Thursday signed a condolence book at the embassy.

“On behalf of President and Mrs. Bush and the American people, I extend sincerest sympathy and deepest condolences to the families of the victims,” Mr. Powell wrote. “We stand in solidarity with our Spanish friends and rededicate ourselves to the fight against terrorism.”

Spain was one of Washington’s closest allies in the war in Iraq.

Mr. Bush also signed the condolence book, saying simply, “God bless the Spanish people.”

“That’s something we will never forget, the president laying a wreath underneath the Spanish flag,” the ambassador said. “I’m really overwhelmed by the sympathy and solidarity expressed by the American people.”

Today at 5:30 p.m., the ambassador will attend a special Mass for the victims of the attacks at St. Matthew’s Cathedral at New Hampshire Avenue and M Street NW.

Diplomatic traffic

Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:

Today

• Kenya’s national security minister, Christopher Murungaru, who meets officials at the White House, State Department, CIA and FBI.

• Israeli Housing Minister Effi Eitam, who meets officials at the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Tomorrow

• Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, who addresses the American Ireland Fund dinner. On Wednesday, he presents President Bush with the traditional St. Patrick’s Day bowl of shamrocks and attends a luncheon hosted by House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican. He also meets Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat.

• David Trimble, leader of Northern Ireland’s Ulster Unionist Party, meets members of Congress. On Wednesday, he meets President Bush for a St. Patrick’s Day event, attends the luncheon hosted by House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert and holds a 3 p.m. news conference at the National Press Club. On Thursday, he meets Sens. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, and Christopher J. Dodd, Connecticut Democrat. He visits British Ambassador David Manning on Friday.

• Peter Robinson, deputy leader of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, who leads a DUP legislative delegation that includes Jeffrey Donaldson, Nigel Dodds and Jim Allister, a candidate for the European Parliament. They attend President Bush’s St. Patrick’s Day event on Wednesday and meet members of Congress and State Department officials. Mr. Robinson holds a 3 p.m. news conference Friday at the National Press Club.

Wednesday

• Former Irish President Mary Robinson, who is also a former U.N. high commissioner for human rights. She delivers the annual Anwar Sadat Lecture for Peace at the University of Maryland.

Thursday

Belorussian journalists Svetlana Kalinkina, Vyacheslav Khodosovsky and Zhanna Litvina, who address Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty about attacks on press freedom in Belarus.

Friday

• A delegation of professors from Scotland’s University of Aberdeen, including Edward Barrington, Tom Devine, Fidelma Farley, Allan Macinnes and Liam McIlvanney. They participate in a daylong seminar Saturday at the Smithsonian Institution on Scottish-Irish cross-cultural relations. For ticket information, call 202/357-3030.

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

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