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Updated 10:00 AM February 2, 2009




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U.S. diplomacy, democracy in Middle East, Europe topic of talk

Former U.S. Ambassadors Ronald Weiser and Francis Ricciardone Jr. will discuss how U.S. ambassadors express and inform U.S. policies to the countries they serve and how these activities engage civil society and affect the conditions for extending democracy there.

The talk, "U.S. Diplomacy, Civil Society, and Democracy in the Middle East and Europe," will take place at 4 p.m. Feb. 12 at the International Institute, Room 1636.

Ricciardone currently is on leave from the U.S. Department of State, where he served as ambassador to Egypt from 2005-08 and to the Philippines and Palau from 2002-05. A member of the Senior Foreign Service, he has received numerous awards for his work in foreign policy, political reporting, analysis, and peacekeeping.

Because of his experience working on two multinational military deployments in Egypt's Sinai Desert and as a political adviser to the U.S. and Turkish commanding generals of Operation Provide Comfort in Turkey and Iraq, Ricciardone was chosen to direct the Department of State's 9/11 Task Force on the Coalition Against Terrorism and served as the Secretary of State's special coordinator for the Transition of Iraq. He began his international career in 1978 as a Fulbright Scholar and teacher in Italy.

Weiser was appointed by former President George Bush as U.S. Ambassador to Slovakia from 2001-04. In addition to his diplomatic responsibilities he organized three international investment conferences attended by investors from hundreds of companies. In 2004 he received the White Double Cross from Slovak President Rudolph Schuster, the highest award given to non-Slovaks, and the Cultural Pluralism Award from the U.S. Commission for the Preservation of America's Heritage Abroad for his work in the restoration of a Jewish cemetery in Zakopane, Poland, and one of Slovakia's most cherished historical sites, the medieval Trencin Castle.

In 2007 Ambassador Weiser was honored by the Woodrow Wilson International Center of the Smithsonian with the Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service. In 2008 he and his wife, Eileen Lappin Weiser, donated $10 million to the International Institute in LSA. The gift established the Ronald and Eileen Weiser Center for Europe and Eurasia that serves as the umbrella organization for the Center for Russian and European Studies, the Center for European Studies-European Union Center, and the Weiser Center for Emerging Democracies.

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