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Clinton's gaffe: You say Solana, I say Solano

David Usborne
Saturday 07 March 2009 01:00 GMT

Hillary Clinton came to Brussels on a mission: to show Europe that the days of America thinking it is bigger, better, brighter than everywhere else were over. But her strenuous efforts were undermined by a series of minor gaffes that left the officials scratching their heads.

At a lunch, Mrs Clinton bungled the name of the EU external relations commissioner, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, calling her Benito, of all things. Javier Solana, the EU foreign policy chief, became Solano from her lips.

But what froze hearts at the European Parliament was the moment Mrs Clinton spoke about the complexity of multi-party democracies in Europe (compared with just two in the US) while adding, astonishingly, that democracy in the US "has been around a lot longer than European democracy".

The best explanation was exhaustion after a week that had taken her from China through the Middle East and to Brussels. Her efforts seemed to work. Nato foreign ministers fawned and clapped. And the renamed Benita Ferrero-Waldner declared: "Now we have the US with us." Last night in Geneva she had dinner with the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov. At least his names have only two syllables.

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