WASHINGTON (AP) _ The capital's diplomatic corps turned out in dinner jackets and ball gowns at red rose-decorated tables in a hotel ballroom for a benefit held in their honor by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

They were joined Wednesday night by politicians and company executives at an event that kicks off the embassy season,celebrating the good citizen role the diplomats play in supporting community causes and fund raising.

``The atmosphere and the camaraderie are special on this occasion,''said Joseph Edsel Edmunds, ambassador from Saint Lucia and acting head of the diplomatic corps. ``We can meet our colleagues in an informal setting and all in aid of a good cause.''

New envoys to the capital _ there are 37 this year _ are introduced and asked to join their more senior counterparts in a traditional ambassador's waltz that starts the evening.

It's not just a social occasion. Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagarishvili, who is visiting, had a brief conversation with Rep. Benjamin Gilman, R-N.Y.,chairman of the House International Relations Committee.

But the politicians relax as well. Sen Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., brought his mother Marcia from Stamford, Conn.

Welcoming the guests in a floor length red dress, Linda Jenckes ,chairman of the society's board of trustees, said there was new hope in finding a cure for multiple sclerosis.

``Recent research trials have recognized four new drug treatments that affect the course of the disease,'' she said. While they are not a cure, '' they do provide hope and help to millions of people.''

The drugs are produced in the United States, Germany, Israel and Ireland and three of them have already been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

In 10 years, scientists believe, 80 percent of the disease's symptoms will be under control.

``Let's hope there will be an ambassador's ball soon when we can celebrate a victory over MS,'' said Toby Webb, executive vice president of Bell Atlantic, which has sponsored the event for the past three years.

The National Multiple Sclerosis Society took over the ball 19 years ago from the White House when President Jimmy Carter simplified the executive office's social duties.

Last year the ball raised $500,000 and was expected to do as well this year.

A silent auction of more than 80 gifts includes round trip air tickets to India and Brazil, a moonlight dinner cruise for 20 on the Potomac river, tickets to next year's Masters golf tournament, weekend passes to Disney World, a scrimshawed sperm whale tooth and two puppies who put in an appearance at the dinner.

The 4,500 roses came from Colombia and band leader David White said Latin American ambassadors had requested tangos and cha-chas for an older crowd that obviously knew how to dance.