U.S. Envoy Gone, but Comments Leave Paris With a New Flap

Times Staff Writer

Barely two days after he left Paris and his post as U.S. ambassador, Evan Galbraith ignited a new controversy Wednesday with a farewell interview in a prominent French newspaper that led the French government to summon the U.S. diplomat left in charge of the embassy for an official protest.

A spokesman for the French External Relations Ministry said that John Maresca, the U.S. charge d'affaires until Galbraith's successor arrives in a few days, was called in over "the unacceptable character of the remarks made by Galbraith . . . on the internal politics of France."

The French spokesman did not specify which remarks upset the government, but it was widely assumed that Galbraith, a 57-year-old banker who believes in publicly promoting the views of President Reagan, once again irritated the government with comments about the French Communist Party.

No Tears Shed

In the interview, which covered a full page in Le Figaro, a respected conservative paper in Paris, Galbraith said that the Americans had been pleased when the Communists left the Socialist administration of President Francois Mitterrand a year ago.

"For us," he was quoted as saying, "they are sort of illegal and should not even participate in the legislative process."

Galbraith also was quoted as saying that, judging by the polls, "it is clear that the opposition is going to win" the French legislative elections in 1986. That opposition is conservative, and Galbraith seemed to indicate that he would be pleased by such a victory.

"I would prefer that France give a chance to a policy of free enterprise," he said.

There was irony in the French summoning of Maresca, 47, a career Foreign Service officer, to explain the undiplomatic remarks of Galbraith, a political appointee. Many career officers say they have to pick up the pieces after political appointees make diplomatic errors.

More Qualified, He Says

Galbraith, who plans to return to his former work as an international banker, has insisted in a series of interviews and speeches over the last few months that a man like himself--a private businessman with close links to the President and with many years of living and working in Europe--is more qualified than a career Foreign Service officer to serve as ambassador to a country such as France.

Galbraith's designated successor, Joe M. Rodgers, a Tennessee businessman and Republican Party fund-raiser, is also a political appointee.

During his four-year stay as ambassador, Galbraith was called in three times to explain remarks that the French government regarded as interference in its internal politics. In one such instance in February, 1982, Galbraith was rebuked by then-Premier Pierre Mauroy after he said in a radio interview that a Communist is a "poor Frenchman gone astray."

Much of the Galbraith's Wednesday interview focused on what he described as his good relations with the governing Socialists. The headline over the interview read, "I Have Contributed to Reconciling the French and Reagan."

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World
66°