- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Polish fallout

The United States yesterday played down a dispute between the Polish government and the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw after an American diplomat reportedly suggested that the deputy prime minister be fired because he denounced the war in Iraq.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Washington was “a bit surprised” by a statement last week by Deputy Prime Minister Roman Giertych, but declined to comment on reports of remarks attributed to Kenneth MacLean Hillas Jr., the deputy chief of mission at the embassy.

Mr. McCormack said the State Department does not “pick and choose or even comment publicly on the composition of the Polish government.”

“Poland,” he added, “is a good friend and ally, a very close friend and ally.”

The newspaper Dziennik reported yesterday that Mr. Hillas suggested Mr. Giertych be fired during a private conversation on Oct. 25 with Leszek Jesien, a foreign policy adviser to the prime minister. The newspaper obtained a memo that Mr. Jesien wrote after the meeting in which he quoted Mr. Hillas as saying, “If a deputy prime minister in Germany, France or Denmark said that, he would be fired.”

Mr. Giertych denounced the war in parliament last week and demanded to know “how many innocent victims have died in Iraq over the past three years.”

Mr. Giertych yesterday criticized Mr. Hillas, citing “unacceptable interference in Polish internal affairs,” and Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski said Mr. Hillas “apparently overstepped the norms governing relations between sovereign nations.”

Foreign Minister Anna Fotyga demanded an explanation from U.S. Ambassador Victor Ashe.

Choice confirmed

The State Department yesterday confirmed that Josette Sheeran, a high-ranking diplomat and former managing editor of The Washington Times, has been selected to lead the U.N. World Food Program, which last year helped feed 100 million victims of conflicts and natural disasters.

“Ambassador Sheeran has the leadership abilities and work experience most suited to lead this critical humanitarian organization,” the department said. “She has a proven track record in development policy and humanitarian assistance and more than 20 years of successful management experience in government, foundations and the private sector.”

Miss Sheeran, 52, is currently undersecretary of state for economic, business and agricultural affairs. She was an editor at The Times from its founding in 1982 until she resigned as managing editor in 1997.

Election interlude

In the past two days, several embassies offered what one ambassador called a break from the rigors of the U.S. campaign season.

The Spanish ambassador hosted an evening of Spanish food last night, while the South Korean Embassy featured Korean cuisine yesterday afternoon at the National Press Club.

However, British Ambassador David Manning won the prize with a special performance by the world-renowned classical pianist Barry Douglas, a Northern Irish musician who soared to fame after winning the Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition in Moscow in 1986.

Mr. Douglas also is heralded for creating the Camerata Ireland chamber music orchestra, which draws talented young musicians from both the British province in the North and the Irish Republic in the south. Since 1999, the Camerata Ireland has won fame by highlighting the talent in a region that was known for decades as a battleground between Protestants and Catholics.

“He has risen above the North-South divide and transcends it,” said Dr. John King, president of the Camerata Ireland orchestra, who traveled to Washington with Mr. Douglas.

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

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