- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 2, 2005

Happy diplomat

The French ambassador senses a new love affair between Paris and Washington, after Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice wooed the normally prickly Parisian elite on her visit to France.

“I’m a happy ambassador,” Jean-David Levitte said this week at a luncheon at Les Halles restaurant sponsored by the French Tourist Office.

“The French fell in love with Condi Rice,” he said. “That is good news, and in coming months, you will see a series of initiatives between France and the United States.”

Mr. Levitte has not been this happy since he came to Washington as France actively was trying to block the United States from going to war in Iraq.

He faced diplomatic snubs, endured jokes about French fries and freedom fries, and fought boycotts against traveling to France or buying French wines.

However, Miss Rice’s visit to Paris earlier this month opened a new stage in U.S.-French relations. She not only impressed intellectuals, but she also won approval from French fashion writers. One called her “impeccably groomed and seductive.”

Mr. Levitte congratulated Miss Rice after her visit.

“I told her, ‘You hit a home run during your trip to Paris,’” he said.

Our correspondent Ann Geracimos reports that the ambassador even compared the relations to an old couple in marriage counseling.

Mr. Levitte noted that while “we are not friends, we are members of the same family.”

“For 200 years, the French and Americans have been in marriage counseling, and the marriage is still strong,” he said.

Mr. Levitte paraphrased former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, who once called the United States the “indispensable nation.”

“Europe,” the happy ambassador said, “is your indispensable partner.”

Ukraine investigates

The Ukrainian Interior Ministry yesterday said it is investigating the attack on a black American diplomat by young white skinheads, as the U.S. Embassy updated a warning for American tourists to beware of street crime.

Interior Ministry spokesman Kostyantyn Stohniy said the agency opened a criminal case under Ukraine’s “hooliganism” law and is treating the assault as a racially motivated attack, according to a report from the Interfax-Ukraine news agency.

The Foreign Ministry expressed “deep concern” over the Feb. 26 assault on Robert Simmons, who was beaten by about a dozen men with shaved heads who wore combat boots. They did not attack his white friends with whom he was walking. Mr. Simmons, who serves at the U.S. Embassy in Uzbekistan, was visiting the Ukrainian capital, Kiev.

The U.S. Embassy in Kiev reissued a warning first posted in November after receiving reports of increased street crimes, including racial attacks.

“The attacks all occurred in public, well-lit areas during daylight or relatively early hours of the evening and in the presence of numerous witnesses,” the embassy said.

“In these incidents, the only purpose seemingly was to do physical harm to people who appeared foreign.”

Blocked in Nepal

Authorities in Nepal stopped U.S. Ambassador James Moriarty from visiting a former prime minister under house arrest since the king of the Himalayan nation seized total power a month ago.

The U.S. Embassy in Katmandu said Mr. Moriarty tried to meet with Girija Prasad Koirala, who is also president of the Nepalese Congress.

Mr. Moriarty now is seeking an audience with King Gyanendra.

The Bush administration recalled the ambassador briefly to protest the king’s dismissal of the government, imposition of a state of emergency and detention of political opponents and human rights workers.

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

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