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January 4, 1999

Antigua and Barbuda took over as chair of the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States (OAS) on Monday morning, with a pledge by that country’s ambassador, Lionel Hurst, to intensify the focus on issues such as global warming, the hemispheric war on drugs, and peace and security issues.

The Antigua and Barbuda envoy succeeded his Venezuelan counterpart, Ambassador Francisco Paparoni who, after handing the new chairman the gavel, thanked his diplomatic colleagues and the OAS staff for assisting during his tenure. The change over took place in a ceremony at the offices of the Permanent Council chairman at OAS headquarters, where St. Lucia’s Ambassador Sonia Johnny, assumed the vice-chairmanship from St. Vincent and the Grenadines Ambassador, Kingsley Layne.

Ambassador Hurst went on to stress the important role played by small states in bringing to the fore such critical issues as global climate change which, he said, would be pursued "with all the strength we can muster, over the next three months." But he also stated that he would be stepping up the promotion of the OAS’ role in ending the illicit drug trafficking, money laundering and trafficking in illegal weapons. He also touched on a multilateral evaluation system he said was being worked out among the member states, concerning each country’s anti-narcotics efforts.

In attendance to witness the changing of the guard were senior OAS officials and ambassadors, including the OAS Assistant Secretary General, Ambassador Christopher Thomas of Trinidad and Tobago. He praised the incoming Permanent Council chairman’s credentials, saying his entrance as chairman was a progressive development that "bodes very well," particularly against the background of the interests of small states and renewal at the Organization.

Leadership of the Council, the second highest OAS decision-making body, is held for three months and rotates among the member states, through their permanent representatives accredited to the Washington-based institution.