Denver, Baghdad Pairing A Surprise

Associated Press - Reprinted in Houston Chronicle

June 11, 2004

DENVER -- When the White House announced this week that Denver's new sister city was Baghdad, bus driver Michael Duran wondered whether he'd end up with an Iraqi pen pal.

Gerardo de Herrera wondered whether Baghdad would celebrate Cinco de Mayo, one of Denver's biggest festivals.

Officials at City Hall just wondered. The prospect of sending humanitarian aid to the Iraqi capital came as a surprise to Denver officials. Denver is facing a multimillion-dollar budget deficit.

"No proposal has been given to us," said Lindy Eichenbaum Lent, a spokeswoman for Mayor John Hickenlooper.

The Denver Regional Council of Governments is considering joining the International Partners For Peace program, which is operated by Sister Cities International, said council chairwoman Lorraine Anderson.

Besides humanitarian aid, the program explores health care, education, technology and economic development.

First lady Laura Bush announced sister city pairings on Wednesday. Other U.S.-Iraq pairings include Dallas with Kirkuk and Tucson, Ariz., with Sulaymaniyah.