Natan Sharansky, Israel’s minister of industry and trade, recalled in Atlanta May 29 that Coca-Cola was considered in Russia during his youth ”an awful, poisonous drink of capitalism.”

      Nevertheless, “tens of thousands of Russians traveled to Moscow from Vladivostok (and elsewhere) for as many as 10 days in 1959 to have a free glass of Coca-Cola” at a U.S. exhibit where Richard Nixon and Nikita Khrushchev engaged in the impromptu “kitchen” debate.

      Mr. Sharansky was here to present Roberto C. Goizueta, Coke’s chairman of the board and CEO, with the annual Israel Trade Award.  He praised the company for showing in the 1970s that “profits and principles sometimes go together” because it continued to do business in Israel despite the Arab boycott of its products.

      The award ceremony hosted by the American-Israel Chamber of Commerce Southeast Region and the Government of Israel Economic Mission drew 450 guests to the SwissÙtel.

      Mr. Sharansky will challenge IBM’s “Big Blue” computer in a chess match this week, having honed his chess playing skills while held prisoner in the former Soviet Union.

      He was released in a prisoner exchange on Feb. 11, 1996, and moved to Israel that day.  He was elected to the Israeli Knesset on May 20, 1996, and shortly afterwards was appointed to the Cabinet.

      In this position, he has signed free trade agreements on behalf of Israel with Canada, Turkey, Japan, Korea and Russia. He said that similar agreements would soon be signed with Poland, Hungary and Mexico.