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Largest State Dinner at White House

June 21, 2000 GMT

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Drum rolls and trumpet fanfare greeted King Mohammed VI of Morocco to the White House on Tuesday. The 36-year-old bachelor king ended the day at the largest state dinner of the Clinton administration listening to the pulsating rhythms of ``Earth Wind and Fire.″

``He likes race car driving. He’s a skier. He enjoys `Earth, Wind and Fire,‴ White House social secretary Capricia Marshall said about the king’s desire to hear the band that plays a mixture of blues, rock, jazz and soul.

Twenty-two years ago, the leader of the northern African nation made his first visit to the White House as crown prince. He came with his father, King Hassan II, who ruled Morocco for 38 years.

On Tuesday, with first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton away on the campaign trail in New York, Chelsea Clinton joined her father in welcoming the king and his sister, Princess Lalla Meryem, on the South Lawn. The first lady was back in time for the dinner, which was held outside, under a tent dressed up with yards and yards of champagne-colored fabric and bouquets of peach and pink roses.

``This is the largest state dinner,″ said Marshall, confirming a guest list of 425. It’s not quite as large as a dinner for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, but that affair was not classified as an official state dinner, she said.

Former Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby Rahal made the guest list. Others include: Rachel and Sharon Robinson, the widow and daughter of baseball great Jackie Robinson; Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder; actor Ted Danson; former United Press International reporter Helen Times; sex therapist and talk show host Dr. Ruth Westheimer; singer and dancer Paula Abdul; actresses Carol Alt and Teri Garr; and Alma Brown, the widow of former Commerce Secretary Ron Brown.

The first course featured chilled gazpacho made with tomatoes.

``We lucked into about 100 pounds of really spectacular golden tomatoes from our market source in California,″ said Walter Scheib III, chef of the executive residence. ``The guy told us they were going to be great and sure enough, they came in beautifully _ it’s a tremendous, wonderful sweet garden-y flavor.″

It ended with an orange sherbet dessert called ``A Moroccan Oasis.″ The sherbet was scooped from a circular band of white chocolate painted to resemble a building with Moroccan architecture.

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``The door is supposed to represent the door of the king’s palace of Morocco,″ said Roland Messnier, White House pastry chef.

In between, there was lemon garlic crusted lamb, warm goat cheese tarts and seared salmon, coated with three different kinds of peppercorns _ black, red and an African peppercorn that has a licorice flavor.