Reprinted from yesterday's late editions
French Ambassador Jacques Kosciusko-Morizet saluted a friend and comrade-in-arms Wednesday night - British Ambassador Sir Peter Ramsbotham, about to retire from his post in Washington to become governor-general of Bermuda.
With both diplomats and former Secretary of Transportation William T. Coleman in the room, the embassy dinner inevitably touched for a bit on the controversial Concorde.
The famous airliner, the first to go into service at faster-than-sound speeds, became airborne a couple of years ago out of French and British cooperation. "Our common gratitude goes to Monsieur Coleman for his sense of justice," said the French ambassador in a toast to Ramsbotham winding up the dinner.
Ramsbotham, for his part, added British congratulations to Coleman by calling his decision to let Concorde land at Dulles during a trial period, "a masterpiece of its kind." The New York landings of the SST are still in question, demanding what Ramsbotham sees as a "last Herculean effort" from British and French proponents.
Sen. Charles Percy (R-III.), among the nearly four dozen black tie dinner guests at the farewell party for Ramsbotham, piped up that the wife of the Attorney General, seated on his right, "has just invited you (Concorde) to land in Atlanta."
Griffin Bell, at Ramsbotham's table across the room, interjected: "We've got plenty of runways."
Earlier, Bell had a reluctant comment on what was a significant day in the life of one of his predecessors. "When you fall so far as he did," he said of former Attorney General John Mitchell, "it makes it doubly sad."
Seeming to be less than happy about discussing Mitchell, whom he said he had met on two occasions when the latter was Attorney General, Bell said stiffly. "I don't dwell on Watergate . . . I don't live in the past. Most every day somebody asks me about it. When I go across the country nobody does, but Washington is not able to shake it."
As for an official portrait of Mitchell, Bell said that "Attorney General Mitchell and Attorney General Bell will be in the same category - the President ordered no more portraits." The last, in fact, to be hung at the Justice Department will be the official portrait of Gerald Ford's Attorney General, Edward H. Levi.
Ramsbotham leaves July 2 for England and takes up his new post in Bermuda in September. He expressed frank admiration for his French colleague, who recently campaigned for - and won - the office of mayor in a small village west of Paris, where he is expected to move when he retires. "Politics intruded abruptly into my departure," said Ramsbotham, an oblique reference to the furor earlier this spring when the Callaghan government suddenly ousted him and appointed the prime minister's son-in-law, Peter Jay, as successor.
Ramsbotham was under criticism for his style of diplomacy - on the one hand regarded as stilted and unimaginative, and on the other, as frivolous. Some veterans of Embassy Row say he is leaving in a blaze of glory, having engineered the visit by Princess Anne and a highly successful garden party in her honor.
British embassy staff members contributed from their entertainment allowances provided them by the foreign ministry, subsidizing the party which otherwise would not have been held. A year ago the Foreign Office ordered that the traditional Queen's birthday party be scuttled because of Britain's economic situation.
Staffers here, however, decided to wait until next year to forego the traditional party. Instead, they all had a hand in choosing the guests, who numbered 1,600 out of the 2,200 invited, and tossed a party that cost upward of $10,000, according to one official estimate.
Ramsbotham Wednesday night had no comment about the fate of the Queen's birthday party in Washington.