AT LEAST six Caribbean Community Prime Ministers have been excluded from a selected list of invitees for a working breakfast with President George W.B. Bush in New York on Wednesday, September 24.
Among them are Barbados's Owen Arthur and Trinidad and Tobago's Patrick Manning; Antigua and Barbuda's Lester Bird; St. Vincent and the Grenadines' Ralph Gonsalves, Belize's Said Musa and Dominica's Pierre Charles.
Bush's chosen CARICOM breakfast guests are: Guyana's President Bharrat Jagdeo, and the Prime Ministers of Jamaica, P.J. Patterson; St. Lucia's Kenny Anthony, The Bahamas' Perry Christie, and Grenada's Keith Mitchell, the Sunday Chronicle was reliably informed yesterday.
Prime Minister Patterson, current Chairman of the 15-member CARICOM, has already indicated that it was not possible for him to attend the breakfast session but stood ready to meet with the US President at another mutually convenient time.
It could not be confirmed whether the Presidents of Suriname, Ronald Venetiaan, and Haiti's Jean Bertrand Aristide were also invited.
Prime Minister Denzil Douglas, who recently had surgery in the USA, is still recuperating at home and is not expected for any meetings this week in New York, where a number of CARICOM heads of Government and Foreign Ministers will address the current 58th session of the UN General Assembly.
Noting those "in" and "out" for breakfast with Bush, one leading Caribbean diplomat said it was significant that the excluded Prime Ministers are the ones whose governments were blacklisted in July this year for an end to United States military assistance
That development followed their refusal to enter bilateral agreements with Washington to exempt American nationals from the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC) if required to face trial for war crimes or crimes against humanity.
There have since been initiatives by CARICOM to engage the USA in a review of the disagreements over bilateral exemption pacts sought by Washington, but the issue remains unresolved.
One of the more significant omissions for the working breakfast with Bush, happens to be Prime Minister Manning who is known to have requested a meeting with President Bush some months ago to discuss Trinidad and Tobago-USA bilateral relations.
But an "appropriate time" is still to be determined, with one such possibility being the forthcoming international energy summit scheduled for November in Miami, according to well-placed official sources.
Manning was mandated at the CARICOM Summit in Montego Bay in July to also discuss at his proposed meeting with President Bush a range of issues of interest to the Community as a whole.
In contrast to the working breakfast session of limited invitees, heads of all Caribbean delegations to this week meetings of the UN General Assembly are among invited guests for a cocktail function to be hosted by President Bush on the evening of Tuesday, September 23.
Prime Minister Anthony of St. Lucia, who has lead responsibility for "governance and justice" among CARICOM leaders, is scheduled to be the first CARICOM head to address the Assembly on Tuesday. Prime Minister Patterson is due to do so on September 29.
Among Foreign Ministers addressing the General Assembly will be Barbados's Billie Miller and Trinidad and Tobago's Knowlson Gift.
CARICOM is said to be keen on a structured dialogue with the Bush administration on a range of issues of common interest, including crime, terrorism and security, said one Foreign Minister.
Just recently, on September 3, five CARICOM Prime Ministers from the Eastern Caribbean held talks with the Bush administration's Ambassador-at-Large for the western hemisphere on counter-terrorism, Coffer Black, at a meeting in Barbados hosted by Prime Minister Arthur.
But a significant absentee - originally expected for that meeting - newly appointed Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Roger Noriega, failed to turn up at the last moment.
With Arthur at the meeting with Ambassador Black were the Prime Ministers of St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada and Dominica.