Palin Lands as Belle of U.N. Amid Global Finance Crisis

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The New York Sun

UNITED NATIONS — The world leaders who are in New York today for the annual U.N. General Assembly debate may be more concerned about the global financial crisis than political issues or terrorism, several diplomats here say.

And as presidents and prime ministers mingle at the assembly’s autumn session, one figure is being eyed with curiosity: the newest Cinderella on the international scene, Governor Palin, who was scheduled to attend a reception hosted by President Bush last night at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel for as many as 400 world leaders.

Today the Republican vice presidential nominee is scheduled to meet with President Uribe of Colombia and President Karzai of Afghanistan, and tomorrow she will speak with two Eastern European leaders, President Saakashvili of Georgia and President Yushchenko of Ukraine. Later in the day, she will meet with President Talabani of Iraq, and then confer separately with South Asia’s most prominent leaders, Prime Minister Singh of India and Pakistan’s new president, Asif Ali Zardari. The rock musician Bono, who promotes international assistance to the world’s poorest countries, is also on the Alaska governor’s schedule.

But as Mrs. Palin makes the rounds in an effort to bolster her foreign policy credentials, diplomats may shift their focus during the annual gathering, sneaking out to meetings in Wall Street boardrooms instead of attending lengthy U.N. speeches. The White House press secretary, Dana Perino, told reporters yesterday that Mr. Bush is considering adding a reference to the economy to his speech this morning before the General Assembly, which will likely mark his final U.N. appearance as president.

“Global leaders will be coming to New York this week for the annual General Assembly, but one of the issues that is going to be uppermost on their minds is the global financial crisis, and no doubt many leaders will want to address that issue as well as the U.N. agenda,” the British ambassador to the United Nations, John Sawers, told reporters.

President Ahmadinejad, who is scheduled to address the assembly this afternoon, told the Los Angeles Times yesterday that the financial crisis is the result of America’s “heavy military engagement and involvement around the world.” The Iranian president also repeated his assertion that Israel is doomed, “like an airplane that has lost its engine.”

Prior to his arrival in New York, where he met with Secretary-General Ban yesterday, Mr. Ahmadinejad told reporters in Tehran that excessive American influence at the United Nations has led the world body to punish his country for its nuclear program. “All U.N. bodies should be run based on democratic principles,” he said, the state-run FARS news agency reported. He added that the United Nations “should be located on an independent land so that it would be possible for every party to express their views freely.”

The worldwide financial turmoil may have an effect on international cooperation, including on the Iranian issue. Some of Prime Minister Putin’s top supporters in Russia have suffered especially heavy financial losses, which could change his attitude toward Iran, a former director of central intelligence, James Woolsey, said. The 40% plunge in the Russian financial markets last week “concentrates Putin’s mind,” he added.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said last week that Moscow would oppose a new round of sanctions against Iran at the U.N. Security Council, which already has passed three resolutions imposing financial restrictions on Iranian officials and companies. But yesterday, Russia voted at the Security Council to renew the mandate of a peacekeeping force in Afghanistan, though it abstained from a similar vote last year.

Also yesterday, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohammed ElBaradei, said that unless Iran changes its ways, “the agency will not be able to provide credible assurances about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran.” Russia is very concerned about Iran becoming a nuclear country, said the Middle East scholar Fouad Ajami, who along with Mr. Woolsey and two former Clinton administration ambassadors, Dennis Ross and Richard Holbrooke, are members of a new grassroots campaign to raise awareness about the dangers of Iran’s nuclear program, United Against Nuclear Iran.

Another member, Henry Sokolski, said that while a lot of international discourse revolves around what can be done to stop Iran, the group’s focus will be on “getting the problem described” to the American people and the world. Once the problem is identified, “the solutions could be a humdinger,” he said.

United’s president, Mark Wallace, a former American ambassador to the United Nations, added that although he is an adviser to Senator McCain’s presidential campaign, the group’s aim is to find consensus across party lines.

The New York Sun

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