Unrequited love?

ARGENTINE PRESIDENT CARlos Menem takes special pride in his country's relationship with the United States, but it's hardly mutual.

Consider: The United States has not had an ambassador in Buenos Aires for more than two years and the wait is likely to last even longer. A hearing in January for the latest nominee, Hassan Nemazee, was postponed indefinitely by the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Questions about the financial dealings of the would-be next U.S. ambassador to Argentina apparently caused the delay. Yet, even if approved, Nemazee is no ideal candidate. The Iranian-American businessman has dedicated his career to investing in stocks and developing real estate properties. He has no experience of any kind in Latin America, let alone Argentina.

So, while Clinton may sing Argentina's praises during official visits, Menem must surely feel that his buddy in Washington is not puffing much effort into their relationship.

Still, like an obsessed lover, Menem has done everything over the years to make the relationship work. In 1989, he became the first Peronist president to visit the United States, telling former President George Bush that they were "birds of a feather." To prove his love, Menem sent two frigates to help in the Gulf War. More recently, Menem has been a big cheerleader for the U.S. dollar, proposing its adoption as Argentina's official currency.

In return, the United States has tossed Argentina a bone or two. Shortly before his visit in 1997, Clinton named Argentina a major non-NATO ally, the first country to gain that status since the Cold War.

Nonetheless, Menem must feel all this is scant reward for reversing...

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