Farah Stockman reports that President Obama will go beyond the typical Presidential stopover in Turtle Bay and spend some serious time at the UN.
In addition to the annual speech at the opening of the UN General Assembly on Sept. 23, the same day Obama will host a luncheon for African heads of state and hold a separate gathering for the largest contributors to peacekeeping. The next day, he will preside over an usual summit meeting of the Security Council on arms control. In addition, Obama will speak at the Secretary General’s Climate Change Summit.
Great news. We’ll be there for all the action.
Hugo Chavez was so 2006. This year, expect Libyan president Col. Muammar Gaddafi to suck up media attention during the UN summit later this month.
This will be the first time that Gaddafi has attended the annual UN summit since taking over in a coup forty years ago. But before even setting foot in Turtle Bay, he’s already generated a ton of controversy.
Last month, he gave a hero’s welcome to a convicted Lockerbie bomber who was repatriated to Libya, something which Susan Rice said “offended virtually every American.” Then, he planned on pitching a Bedouin style tent on property owned by the Libyan government in Englewood, New Jersey. This was met with widespread condemnation from municipal leaders, who found a pretext to revoke a permit for the tent site.
There are also rumors afoot that Gaddafi will take his longstanding fued with Switzerland to the floor of the General Assembly and call for a nonsensical resolution to abolish the country. (Swiss authorities arrested his son and daughter in-law last year for apparently beating up two servants in a Geneva hotel. Tripoli retaliated in a number of ways, including preventing two Swiss businessmen from leaving Libya until the Swiss apologized.)
So what do to about this? Noted international relations scholar Ted Nugent thinks that the United States should simply bar Gaddafi from setting foot in the country. I’m not quite sure what good that would do. There is no real danger the United States in letting Gaddafi attend the UN summit. Also, revoking his visa would set an unfortunate precedent that attending a UN summit is a reward to be bestowed or revoked by one head of state to another.
There are, in fact, perfectly legitimate reasons for the Libyan head of state to attend the New York summit. Libya happens to be on the Security Council at the moment. This means that there is a good chance that Gaddafi will attend a Council meeting on non-proliferation chaired by President Obama. Before you scoff, consider that despite his other flaws, Gaddafi really is a de-proliferator. Libya once had a nuclear program, but gave it up in 2003 amidst international pressure. This kind of behavior should be encouraged if the international community is to coax Iran back from the nuclear brink.
While Gadafi’s antics in the run up to the summit may offend, it’s arguably more harmful to American interests to prevent him from attending the meeting than letting him inside the proverbial tent.
Susan Rice briefed the UN press corps yesterday. A few interesting items of note about American participation in events on UN week.
1) Rice implied that we can expect some sort of outcome document from a Security Council meeting on non-proliferation, chaired by President Obama. As luck would have it, the United States currently holds the month-long “presidency” of the Security Council, and the September 24 meeting is the first time that an American president will chair a Security Council meeting. So far, we do not know what form this outcome document will take. (It could be a resolution or presidential statement, or something else.) Rice did say, however, that the meeting will not focus on any specific countries (i.e. Iran and North Korea) but on non-proliferation and disarmament issues more broadly.
2) Rice suggested that most, if not all, of the heads of state of the 15 member Security Council will attend the meeting. Libya happens to be a current member of the Council. And Col. Qadaffi happens to be planning to attend the UN Summit for the first time. This means that Obama and Qadaffi will be sitting across the table from each other, something which is bound to suck up some media attention.
3) Rice announced that Obama will also address the “High Level Event” on climate change, on September 22. This is a summit organized by the Secretary General to focus political attention and help gain some momentum toward a comprehensive post-Kyoto climate accord, to be negotiated in the Copenhagen in December.
The famed economist speaks:
The SG: In Ethiopia over the weekend, the SG is now in the United Arab Emirates. Today he met with Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashed Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, where the two discussed developments in the region, including Syria, Iran, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan, and in the Middle East Peace Process.