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A Bumpy Engagement With the U.N.

President Bush leaves Andrews Air Force Base for New York, where he will address the U.N. General Assembly today for the last time.
President Bush leaves Andrews Air Force Base for New York, where he will address the U.N. General Assembly today for the last time. (By Jose Luis Magana -- Associated Press)

Bolton, Khalilzad's predecessor, offered a pithier assessment of Bush's U.N. diplomacy: "He's not such a cowboy unilateralist -- he tries the multilateral route through the U.N., and you don't get squat."

Aides said that when he comes before the General Assembly on Tuesday, Bush plans to reflect on some of the lessons he has drawn from eight years of diplomacy here and will suggest ways of improving the United Nations and other multilateral organizations. "We have more to do to make them effective, and he will have some positive and constructive suggestions on how to do that," said National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley.

Bush also will attend several events on the sidelines here. He hosted a reception Monday night for world leaders; on Tuesday, he will convene a session with dissidents and meet with the new president of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari. White House press secretary Dana Perino played down tensions between the two countries over how to pursue terrorists in the border regions between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

"Innocent people here in America, in the West and in Pakistan itself are at risk because of these terrorists, and they know that they need to do more and do a better job, and that we're going to be there to support them," Perino told reporters Monday. "But we also recognize their sovereignty."

Despite efforts to patch things over the years, the Iraq war has left an indelible legacy for the Bush administration at the United Nations. Officials say relations will improve only with the arrival of a new president.

"The Bush presidency created enormous problems for the United Nations, mainly by the decision to go to war against Iraq without a Security Council mandate," said Fred Eckhard, spokesman for former secretary general Kofi Annan.

After the fall of Hussein, even as Washington turned to the United Nations for help in Iraq, it was reluctant to yield real authority, U.N. officials said. "We ended up being a necessary evil," said Kieran Prendergast, a former U.N. undersecretary general for political affairs. "They didn't actually want us to do anything. There was great disdain for the United Nations."


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