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Anthony H. Gioia, the Buffalo businessman who became a major Republican fund-raiser and then ambassador to Malta, is heading home.

Gioia told The Buffalo News he has submitted his letter of resignation to President Bush, who appointed him to the diplomatic post in 2001.

"It has been a great pleasure to have served you and the American people these three-plus years," Gioia said in his letter to the president. "Thank you for allowing me to have the experience of a lifetime."

Gioia, 63, is expected to leave his post in Malta on Dec. 8. He said his assignment helped cement U.S.-Malta relations during a time of crisis following the terrorist attacks of 2001 and during military action in Iraq, especially since the Mediterranean island served as a host to visiting Navy ships.

"I've been at post through 9/1 1 and two wars and seen lots of ships and sailors and Marines," he said. "This is not Moscow in the '60s or '70s, but we're in a tough neighborhood."

The ambassador said he is pleased about the state of relations with Malta, which he said proved an important regional ally for American interests.

"They've stepped up to face the war on terrorism and haven't flinched at all," he said in a phone interview.

He also said he is encouraged about Malta's role in facilitating new business opportunities with nearby Libya following improvement in U.S.-Libya relations. Several American executives have established homes in Malta and are commuting to Libya, he said.

Gioia has long been prominent in Republican fund raising, hosting a 2000 reception for former President George H.W. Bush in the Gioia home on Meadow Road in Buffalo that raised $500,000 for his son's presidential campaign. He also formerly served as a fund-raiser for Gov. George E. Pataki, former Sen. Alfonse M. D'Amato and former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani.

He was a member of Bush's national finance committee during the 2000 campaign but has been out of politics since his 2001 appointment.

One of his last duties occurs today, when he hosts an official visit by Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Gioia said he expects to rejoin his Gioia Management firm, but he and his wife, Donna -- former chairwoman of the Buffalo Zoo's board of directors -- have no firm plans. He does not expect, however, to take any new post in the Bush administration.

"We're going to take it slow and see what happens," he said. "We've done our thing, and now it's time to come home."


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