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A Dramatic Change in Roles for Albright and Primakov

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Amid intense talk of crises in Asia’s economies, Myanmar’s junta, Cambodia’s elections, Indonesia’s political upheaval and India’s and Pakistan’s nuclear programs, the foreign ministers from 21 countries broke Tuesday for a bit of slightly surreal and distinctly off-key levity from the former superpower rivals.

Diplomatic detente temporarily turned into a love feast as Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny M. Primakov crooned to each other as star-crossed lovers in a parody of “West Side Story” for the banquet finale.

“Tonight,” pledged a Russian spokesman by way of understated introduction, “won’t be just any night.”

“The most beautiful sound I ever heard, Yevgeny. All the beautiful sounds of the world in a single word, Yevgeny!” warbled Albright, as Maria from the Leonard Bernstein classic.

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Responded Primakov, as Tony, “I just met a girl, Madeleine Albright,

“And suddenly I find

“She thinks she’ll change my mind

“For free.”

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To the tune of “America,” the two bantered back and forth:

Albright: “America’s nobody’s enemy.”

Primakov: “So why do you practice hegemony?”

Albright: “I want to know what you think of me.”

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Primakov: “Look in your file at the KGB!”

The skits are a ritual at the Assn. of Southeast Asian Nations conference. There was also a song by India poking fun at its recent nuclear tests.

“Why such a fuss over a few crackers in the Thar?” asked the delegation. “They weren’t as loud as Nevada or Lop Nor,” the U.S. and Chinese test sites.


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