Thursday, April 14, 2005

Diplomats play ball

The ambassador of the Dominican Republic might be the proudest foreign diplomat in Washington today, as he cheers for the Washington Nationals, with five players from his Caribbean island nation.

Ambassador Flavio Dario Espinal said yesterday that he was attending the opening game at RFK Stadium as the guest of D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams.

“I told him that the Dominican Republic is going to be part of Washington, D.C., now more than ever,” the ambassador said.

He said Dominicans are “very, very proud” of their native sons on the team, especially outfielder Jose Guillen, who hit two home runs in the Nationals’ victory over the Atlanta Braves.

The other Dominicans on the team are pitchers Francis Beltran and Claudio Vargas, shortstop Cristian Guzman and second baseman Henry Mateo.

“Baseball is part of our identity. It is our national pastime, too,” the ambassador said.

He added that the game also has serious social and economic benefits for his country. Many of the Dominican players in the United States send money to their families still in the Dominican Republic or create foundations that promote education or other social goals there.

Mexican Ambassador Carlos Alberto de Icaza Gonzalez also is excited about the Nationals’ prospects this season because the team includes four Mexicans.

“Baseball is back in Washington. This is great news for the tradition, for the loyal fans in D.C. and for Mexico,” he said.

“Mexico is very proud that four very talented and distinguished Mexicans are playing with the Nationals this year. We are sure they will do their best to make the Nationals one of the best teams in this country.”

The Mexicans are pitchers Luis Avila, Esteban Loaiza and Antonio Osuna and third baseman Vinny Castilla.

Canadian Ambassador Frank McKenna is a “huge baseball fan” and closely followed the team when it was the Montreal Expos, an aide said.

Although he could not make the opening game because of a previous commitment in Vancouver, British Columbia, Mr. McKenna often jokes that he took the job in Washington to follow the team.

Envoy Wolfensohn

The United States is banking on James Wolfensohn as its new special envoy to pursue peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.

Mr. Wolfensohn, who will step down as president of the World Bank on May 31, will be responsible for helping the Israelis withdraw from the Gaza Strip and promoting economic development for the Palestinians.

“The responsibility for peace ultimately rests with the two parties, and Mr. Wolfensohn can only help them achieve what they are willing to achieve together,” Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said yesterday as she announced his appointment.

Mr. Wolfensohn will work with mediators from the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations, she said.

Defending Japan

The United States and Japan are planning a joint research project on advanced military technology, another sign of the increasing military cooperation between the two countries.

U.S. Ambassador J. Thomas Schieffer signed the agreement with Japanese Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura, the Foreign Ministry said yesterday.

The project will study new technology designed to build better ship hulls through the use of stainless steel and carbon-fiber-reinforced plastics, the ministry said.

Mr. Schieffer emphasized the strategic importance of Japan when he met with reporters last week, after arriving in Tokyo.

“Japan is the linchpin of our whole security in the Pacific,” he said.

Mr. Schieffer is the former ambassador to Australia and a former business partner of President Bush in the Texas Rangers baseball team.

• Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail

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