From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Tue Mar 03 2009 - 07:57:10 EST
ANALYSIS-Many, but not all, see new US style at UN
Tue Mar 3, 2009 6:00am GMT
By Louis Charbonneau
UNITED NATIONS, March 3 (Reuters) - Western U.N. delegates are heaping
praise on the Obama administration for abandoning the Bush administration's
confrontational approach, but others complain that the change is merely
Western diplomats based in New York said U.S. President Barack Obama has
shown he wants to rebuild bridges with Washington's traditional allies, some
of whom complained it was hard to negotiate with U.S. delegations under
former President George W. Bush.
Obama's ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, is a refreshing change
from some of her recent predecessors, European and other Western diplomats,
speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters .
"There's no more lecturing and dictating," said a European diplomat "You
feel that Susan Rice listens, as if she's taking you seriously. That wasn't
always the case before."
One senior European diplomat refers to the new U.S. envoy as "Human Rice" --
a play on Rice's stated desire to re-engage in talks on human rights issues
at the United Nations and the fact that some diplomats find her pleasant to
But Rice's job will not be easy. While there is a lot of goodwill toward the
new U.S. administration, U.N. diplomats and officials say, U.S. critics like
Iran and Libya have secured high-profile positions at key U.N. bodies.
Nicaragua's former Sandinista foreign minister Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann
heads the U.N. General Assembly, a post he routinely uses to rail against
the United States and Israel. D'Escoto will be succeeded by a Libyan.
During its eight years in office the Bush administration was known for
having disdain for the United Nations, preferring to bypass it on issues
such as human rights, climate change and disarmament.
That reputation was built before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and
peaked in 2005-2006 while John Bolton was its U.N. envoy. He launched a
campaign to root out U.N. corruption and reform the bloated bureaucracy,
which diplomats said turned into an anti-U.N. crusade.
Even before he was posted in New York, Bolton was a known for comments such
as: "There is no such thing as the United Nations. There is only the
international community, which can only be led by the only remaining
superpower, which is the United States."
"NEW WINE, OLD GLASS"
The Obama administration is taking a different approach and wants issues
like human rights, disarmament and climate change back in New York. As one
European envoy said, "Their attitude is it's easier to change things from
within than without."
Obama, Rice and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have also said they would
be willing to engage in direct nuclear talks with Iran, which is under U.N.
sanctions for refusing to halt an atomic program it insists is peaceful.
Urged by its U.N. allies to talk with Iran directly, the Bush administration
had balked at the idea of face-to-face talks with Tehran, which it accuses
of developing atomic weapons. Washington cut off ties with Iran in 1980.
While Western diplomats have welcomed Rice and her polite, approachable
style, she has not impressed everyone.
"It's new wine in an old glass," said one senior envoy from a developing
country. "There is no change in content. Their policy is the same as Bush.
Gaza, Iran, Sudan, it's the same."
Iran's U.N. envoy Mohammad Khazaee said as much after a Security Council
meeting last week in which Rice said U.S. policy "will seek an end to Iran's
ambition to acquire an illicit nuclear capacity and its support for
The Iranians, who are not on the council, were furious.
"It is unfortunate that, yet again, we are hearing the same tired,
unwarranted and groundless allegations that used to be unjustifiably and
futilely repeated by the previous administration," Khazaee said in a
David Bosco, professor of international politics at American University in
Washington, D.C., said the Obama administration would be genuinely more
receptive to the United Nations than its predecessor.
"The specific lesson of the Iraq War was that the Bush administration had
erred by marginalizing the organization," Bosco said.
But that did not mean there would be no U.N.-Washington friction under
Obama. Former President Bill Clinton, Bosco said, had come into office
wanting to work more closely with the international body but ended up
"Sometimes, those ideologically inclined to believe in the U.N. can be just
as bitter as those hostile to it when the institution doesn't produce," he
said. "As Iran and North Korea are discovering, America has certain well
established positions that will not change, even if the atmospherics do."
(Editing by Vicki Allen)
C Thomson Reuters 2009 All rights reserved
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