- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Return to Paris

French Ambassador Jean-David Levitte came to Washington when officials here denounced France, consumers boycotted French wines and chefs renamed french fries as “freedom fries.”

Americans were angry at France’s efforts to block the United States from invading Iraq in 2003 and felt double-crossed by French diplomatic maneuvers at the United Nations. The beleaguered ambassador was the envoy for a government that many U.S. citizens saw as gleefully anti-American.

Relations did improve gradually over the past four years, and now Mr. Levitte finds himself in a reversal of fortunes. He just accepted the job of senior diplomatic adviser to the new, unabashedly pro-American president, Nicolas Sarkozy. Mr. Levitte held the same position under President Jacques Chirac from 1995 to 2000.

Mr. Levitte “is already in Paris, as our [electoral] transition is obviously shorter than yours,” Nathalie Loiseau, a spokeswoman for the French Embassy, said in an e-mail to reporters and friends of the ambassador.

Mr. Levitte, a career diplomat, began work for the president yesterday, shortly after Mr. Sarkozy took the oath of office. Mr. Levitte’s departure from Washington was so swift that he hardly had time to say goodbye.

“He will do his best to come back for a few days sometime in July in order for him to bid farewell to his many friends,” the spokeswoman said. “Meanwhile, he has asked me to thank you for the extraordinary moments he spent working with all of you and to send you on his behalf his warmest regards.”

Mr. Levitte tried his best to maintain cordial relations with both the White House and State Department, even as he defended French policies and insisted that France was not a pacifist nation. In a February 2003 speech, Mr. Levitte listed France’s troop deployments in Afghanistan, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo and cited its unilateral intervention in a civil war in the Ivory Coast.

“France is not shy about the use of force and has resorted to military means several times in the past decade,” he said.

A month later, he told the Council on Foreign Relations that he understood that the United States and Europe have different views on their national interests.

“Europeans want to develop a shared sovereignty,” Mr. Levitte said, referring to the European Union. “In the United States sovereignty is not something you share. It is something you protect.”

Warning in Kenya

The U.S. ambassador to Kenya yesterday called on politicians to stop inflaming tribal disputes in their campaign for presidential and parliamentary elections, scheduled for December.

Ambassador Michael Ranneberger told an audience at the University of Nairobi that politicians risk creating more of the type of violence that claimed more than 2,000 lives in elections in 1992 and 1997 and in a constitutional referendum in 2005.

“Tribalism — rather political appeals to tribalism — remains, perhaps, the most significant challenge to Kenyan democracy,” he said, according to news reports from the Kenyan capital.

“Shared responsibility means political leaders have an obligation to control rhetoric, eschew violence and set a responsible example for their partisans. There is no place for threats or name-calling.”

He also called on Kenya’s myriad political parties to issue detailed platforms on issues that matter to the nation of 35 million and to form coalitions to prevent political fragmentation.

“Kenya does not need 85 political parties, many of which are little more than ‘sitting-room’ or ‘briefcase’ parties representing personal interests,” he said, referring to many tiny parties with few followers.

Mr. Ranneberger said the United States is prepared to send large teams of observers. Kenya held peaceful presidential and parliamentary elections in 2002. Local and foreign monitors agreed they were free and fair.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail [email protected] washingtontimes.com.

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