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In our James Bond-obsessed world, the word "intelligence" has "a sexy connotation," conceded James B. Foley, Buffalo-born U.S. State Department deputy spokesman. But instead of espionage-glamour, what intelligence involves, he said, "is a more mundane, prosaic reality."

Earlier this year, Foley, 42, was at the center of controversy over reports of intelligence-sharing between the Clinton administration and the U.N. commission established to destroy Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

Far from Baghdad, here in Buffalo, the State Department will hold a U.S. foreign-policy town meeting, "Peace and Politics: The U.S. in World Crises," Thursday afternoon in the Marine Midland Arena Harbour Club. The keynote address, after a reception, will be given by Foley, also the State Department's award-winning principal deputy assistant secretary of state for public affairs. And the man who stands in the front lines of world concerns, incidently, is Pierce Brosnan handsome!

The Clinton administration denied that it had placed spies on the U.N. Special Commission's staff, although, according to the Los Angles Times, officials conceded that some inspectors had intelligence backgrounds.

"The business of weapons of mass destruction arms control is extremely serious and cannot be carried out by amateurs," Foley explained. "The United States sent UNSCOM our best weapons experts, both from the government and private organizations." It makes sense. You'd want pros information-gathering on Iraq's weapon programs -- "what UNSCOM'S mission's all about."

Intelligence -- the IQ kind -- is what his job demands, as Foley has to be on top of everything that goes on in the world -- from the Palestinian-Israeli issue to jet and embassy bombers.

"It's physically demanding," he admitted in an interview after a Mideast trip, "not a 9-to-5 job."

Foley has come a long way from the late '70s, when he read novels at Fredonia State College -- "the happiest time in life." He also took courses in political science and French, soon to be most useful. Under a Rotary Fellowship, he studied international relations at the Paris Institut d' Etudes Politiques. There he got a "taste for international living."

Later, he earned his master's from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. Prior to joining the Foreign Service in 1983, he worked as a research assistant at the Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis in Cambridge, Mass. He then went on to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, where he was an international affairs fellow.

He's had an impressive career. His first overseas assignment was in Manila, from 1984 to '86. Savvy about the Algerian political scene, he spent a couple of years in Algiers, too, as a political officer. In the early '90s, Foley worked as special assistant to the deputy secretary of state, with "oversight responsibilities" that included the Middle East, Central America, the Caribbean, Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. For three years in the mid-'90s, he served as deputy director of the private office of the NATO secretary-general in Brussels. He had responsibility for defense/military issues, including all aspects of NATO operations in Bosnia, and served as a liaison between the secretary general and the NATO military authorities.

In another area where strategy plays a big part, Foley hasn't forgotten his Buffalo roots, as he manages to follow the Bills' games no matter where he is on the planet.

The career diplomat recently responded to a New York Times report in The News, denying that U.S. tax dollars have been lost or stolen in Bosnia:

"We know and follow where this money goes, and we believe it is a sound investment in promoting a Bosnia that will not return to civil strife and again endanger our security interests in the Balkans."

He's just back from a Mideast trip, but don't think they're glamorous -- "a nightmare," revealed one insider.

Before his address, Foley will visit his old school, St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute, where he got "a very good education." The town meeting is co-sponsored by the Buffalo Council on World Affairs and the Buffalo-Niagara Region Council for International Visitors. Mayor Masiello will deliver welcoming remarks at the foreign-affairs fest. Other diplomats to be featured: Dr. Thomas Fingar, deputy assistant secretary of state for analysis, who will speak on "China: Human Rights? Capitalism? Or Both." In addition, Ambassador Richard W. Bogosian, special assistant for the Greater Horn of Africa Initiative, will address "Africa: Giant of the 21st Century."

In Buffalo, Foley will focus on -- what else? -- U.S. global leadership.

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