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May 28, 1998

Organization of American States (OAS) Assistant Secretary General Ambassador Christopher R. Thomas, who is in San Salvador, El Salvador, for a series of events to mark the 50th anniversary of the OAS, said Thursday that with its commemorative postage stamp and other events, El Salvador was "reaffirming the fact that the OAS continues to be the ideal forum for cultural expressions within the hemisphere."

The commemorative stamp and other events, form part of yearlong activities around the hemisphere to mark the OAS 50th anniversary this year.

El Salvador's commemorations, Ambassador Thomas added as he launched the stamp, "further confirm this country's commitment to the inter-American cause, including the establishment of a prize for individuals that have distinguished themselves working for peace and culture," which he identified among the principal objectives of the OAS.

Salvadorian Foreign Minister Ramón González Giner presided over the function at the foreign ministry, where diplomats and public and private sector representatives were also on hand.

Among other activities held in the Central American country highlighting the OAS milestone this week, the Assistant Secretary hosted a reception Wednesday evening, after attending an exhibition that featured technical projects underway in that country.

Speaking at the exhibition, Ambassador Thomas referred to the many project areas in which OAS was involved in El Salvador, including support for the peace process and election monitoring missions which, he said, "helped to pave the way for and consolidate democracy."

Current projects involve education, science and technology and culture, the latter focussing on restoration of the Tazumal ruins. The First Lady, who was present, is among those involved with OAS-sponsored projects.

The Salvadorian government also hosted a national concert for the OAS golden anniversary, and among those present were the Salvadorian First Lady, heads of leading international institutions, and cabinet ministers.

Thursday morning, the Assistant Secretary General hosted an OAS 50th anniversary breakfast for leading dignitaries, after which he met with the vice presidents of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to discuss projects under the "Trifinio Plan," a technical cooperation arrangement for those three countries. The OAS has played a key role with other regional and international organizations in devising the Plan, under which some $30 million have been disbursed over the past 10 years.

During the discussion, Ambassador Thomas restated the OAS commitment to the plan, pledging "keen attention and every possible assistance in bringing its purposes to fruition in terms of integration of those three OAS member countries."

Mr. Carlos Aquino González, director general of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), also on Thursday hosted a luncheon in honor of the OAS, at which Ambassador Thomas was guest of honor. The OAS deputy chief spoke about intensified cooperation with IICA, pointing to areas that will be consolidated for stepped up collaboration. The Salvadorian vice president and his two visiting Central American counterparts were also in attendance, along with cabinet ministers among other dignitaries.

The Washington-based OAS-made up of 34 active member states from the Caribbean, Latin America and North America--celebrated the occasion with a special program this past April 30 in Bogota, Colombia, where the actual signing of its charter took place exactly 50 years before.

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