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A humdrum session at the U.N.

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By Al Kamen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 30, 2010; 10:54 PM

Acolleague, walking by the 38-story United Nations headquarters last week during the 65th meeting of the General Assembly, looked up to see that the windows on several of the top floors appeared blown out, the wind whipping off the East River through the seemingly abandoned shell.

It was as if former U.S. ambassador John Bolton's fondest dream had come true!

"If the U.N. . . . building . . . lost 10 stories, it wouldn't make a bit of difference,'' Bolton famously said back in 1994. Asked this week about the building's appearance, Bolton e-mailed: "It's a start!"

Actually, the entire building has been gutted for a renovation project, scheduled for completion in three years or so, at best.

Maybe that's why last month's diplomatic gabfest just didn't have the same feel, the same excitement and side-splitting hilarity that these sessions generally have.

President Obama delivered a perfectly fine speech, nothing earth-shattering. And Iran's wacky president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, lamely tried to match prior ravings, but, aside from saying the United States orchestrated 9/11 to save the economy, his act seemed to have gotten a little stale and predictable.

Venezuela's Hugo Chavez perhaps feared he could never top that 2006 slam of President George W. Bush, when he called Bush "the devil" and said "you can still smell the sulfur" after Bush had spoken in the chamber. Chavez, who didn't fare all that well in Venezuelan elections this week, was a no-show this time.

Ditto Loop Favorite Moammar Gaddafi of Libya, with his elite virgin-female bodyguard detail and collapsible tent. His spectacular fashion shows and dazzling incoherence of past years - demanding $7.77 trillion in reparations for colonialism - were a perennial highlight.

France's Nicolas Sarkozy, always entertaining with his stunning wife, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, gave but a cameo appearance. Neither of the Castro brothers was there. (Fidel last made an appearance in 2000.)

There wasn't so much as a drop-by from Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir. That's probably because he faces international war crimes charges, accused of orchestrating a campaign of murder, torture and forced expulsions in Darfur, and would probably be arrested on the spot.

No prize

Speaking of the United Nations, Equatorial Guinea's foreign minister used the General Assembly meeting to call on the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to stop stalling and start giving out the life sciences award set up in the name of that country's dictator, Teodoro Obiang Nguema.

Loop Fans may recall that the award, endowed for five years by a $3 million gift from Obiang, was set up two years ago - over objections by Washington and the European Union - and then stalled over outrage from the human rights community.


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