Saturday, March 29, 2003

'Sister cities' say no tensions developing

By Susan Vela
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The U.S. campaign in Iraq hasn't twisted any knots in Blue Ash's ties to Ilmenau, Germany, or Montgomery's relations with Neuilly-Plaisance, France.

The sister-city relationships are stronger than ever, say officials in both suburban communities.

Officials from both cities have been exchanging phone calls and e-mails with their European counterparts, but rarely, if ever, is the war mentioned.

"In times like this, people getting together and developing friendships is really an important thing," said Cheryl Hilvert, Montgomery city manager. "The two cities have come together in a friendship that would be hard to change at this point."

Montgomery's 13-year sister-city relationship accompanies this motto: "bringing the world together, one friendship at a time."

Every year, the city holds a Bastille Day festival. The street party celebrates its connection to Neuilly-Plaisance, which is a suburb of Paris.

Hilvert said the phone calls and e-mails began to flow between the two cities after the Sept. 11 attacks.

"They were concerned for us as individuals and as Americans. It was unbelievable," she said.

The relationship between Blue Ash and Ilmenau, Germany, also is going strong, despite its newness. The two formally became sister cities in April 2002.

Tensions were mounting between the United States and Iraq when a Blue Ash delegation visited Ilmenau in November. That's when Mayor Gerd-Michael Seeber declared his support for the United States.

Seeber hails from the Christian Democratic Party, which has supported the war.

Mayor Rick Bryan received a letter from Ilmenau officials last week. They hoped for a speedy conclusion to the war.


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