"What we do is pray," said Ambassador Hamad L. Madfa of the United Arab Emirates (1.9 million barrels of crude a day). "The summer is coming and we need to go to the beach to get away. We just hope this thing will be over very soon. . . ."
Diplomats from the oil-rich OPEC nations, it seems, are having as much trouble as anyone with Washington's fuel crisis.
"I think my driver is still looking for gas," Al Madfa said at 11 Tuesday morning. "He left at 9:15 and he hasn't come back."
Asked if the UAE has any gas pumps of its own in Washington, Al Madfa laughed. "We are no (House Speaker) Tip O'Neill. It's only the Congress that has those."
Kulwant Bal, chauffeur for the ambassador of Saudi Arabia (9.1 million barrels daily), said he spent hours searching for fuel Tuesday. He had just parked one of the embassy's long black limousines on the sidewalk across from its offices at 1520 18th St. NW. A pink ticket flapped beneath its windshield wiper.
"I had to go all around the city," said Bal. His problems were compounded, he said, because the Saudis only use Exxon credit cards. At the eight station, in Chevy Chase, he finally was able to fill up.
Around the corner, the driver for Iraq's ranking diplomat, was not so lucky. He was barely able to get his silver Cadillac parked before it sputtered to a stop.
"I don't have any gas in the car right now," sighed the driver. "If the ambassador wants to go to lunch or something, he has no choice but to walk."
Three million barrels of oil a day in Iraq was no consolation. "That's the problem," said the chauffeur. "It's not here."
At the embassy of Kuwait (2.5 million barrels daily) one diplomat had to abandon his car in his driveway for the weekend and call on the help of friends to drive him around.
"He kept his car near empty until last Friday, and then he just ran out," explained Kuwaiti press attache Ali Alsabah.
Iran (3.5 million barrels a day) is no better off. "Personally, I was in trouble," said vice consul Mohammad Javez Farzaneh. "I had to stay about 14 minutes in a queue (Monday morning). This weekend I did not go out because of diffculties."
At the embassies of Indonesia, Venezuela, Nigeria and the other Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries the story was much the same.
All are having problems, though the ambassadors have the luxury of letting their chauffeurs sweat out the lines. None of the embassies appears to have its own pumps. "We have our communications lines, but they can't carry gas," explained one Arab diplomat.
And none said he was inclined to ask his home country to ease the oil price and supply squeeze.
Like many of the other OPEC emissaries, Farzaneh, at the Iranian embassy, tended to look at his situation philosophically - one might even say "diplomatically."
"When everyone else has to suffer, we must share," said Farzaneh. "When there is lots of gasoline there is no problem, but when there is not . . . we have to share the happiness - and the sadness - of the country where we are." CAPTION: Picture, An Iraqi counselor's Limousine sits idle, having run out of gasoline. By Margaret Thomas - The Washington Post