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NATO: Summit Diary -- A Table, A Gate And Media Everywhere

Washington, 23 April 1999 (RFE/RL) -- A four-column color picture showing Azerbaijan President Heydar Aliyev's arrival in Washington today graces the front page of the Washington Post, one of America's major newspapers.

Aliyev, accompanied by a U.S. deputy chief of protocol, is seen in the picture walking from the plane that brought him to Washington through a U.S. Military honor guard toward his limousine.

Aliyev is one of more than 40 heads of state or government who are in Washington to attend the 50th Anniversary summit of the NATO alliance.

The Special Table

The four-sided table at which 19 members of NATO set at the opening plenary session discussing Kosovo today took several months to plan, design and build -- at a cost of $70,000.

It was built by Mark Wilson, a 35-year-old cabinet maker who says that at 1,300 kilograms, it is the biggest thing he has ever constructed. It is made of birch plywood, laminated with mahogany-colored Formica, edged in solid cherry molding and decorated with NATO's compass star.

Initially, there was an effort to find the table around which 12 founding members set 50 years ago, but that historic table could not be found.

Through A Gilded Gate

NATO leaders representing 19 countries, including new members Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland, walked through a refurbished, gilded ceremonial gate to the ornate hall for their first meeting today.

The gate dabbed with gold paint and with medieval ornaments was restored for the summit. It was the gate through which the founding members walked to sign the agreement creating the alliance 50 years ago.

Flags, Motorcades Everywhere

Street lamps in Washington in the so-called Federal Triangle where most Federal Office Buildings are located are decorated with NATO and U.S. flags.

Hotels, on the other hand, are decorated with the flags of the countries whose delegations are staying there.

Meanwhile, Washington is witnessing an unusual number of motorcades moving through the city as the leaders of the 40 or so countries attending the summit move through the city with police escort.

Sirens blaring, lights flashing, the motorcades move swiftly through city streets that have been blocked temporarily to provide them free passage. Traffic is light, but there is heavy police presence in the city.

Media, Media Everywhere

An estimated 3,000 radio, television and print journalists are in Washington to cover the NATO summit. Adorned with special press passes that include the bearers picture they are situated in a building named for former U.S. President Ronald Reagan.

At a media reception yesterday, journalists from various countries took the opportunity to get acquainted, while nibbling on chicken wings and other delicacies and drinking complimentary wine, beer and other drinks. They received special souvenir bags that contain information on the history of NATO and what is hoped for its future. In the history part, the packet contains the text of the address on April 4, 1949 by U.S. President Harry S. Truman who laid out the purpose for which the alliance was created.

Truman said the founding meeting was designed to put into effect "an international agreement to safeguard the peace and prosperity of this community of nations." Truman said it was "a neighborly act."