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U.N. ambassadors from several nations are disputing assertions by Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry that he met for hours with all members of the U.N. Security Council just a week before voting in October 2002 to authorize the use of force in Iraq.
An investigation by The Washington Times reveals that while the candidate did talk for an unspecified period to at least a few members of the panel, no such meeting, as described by Mr. Kerry on a number of occasions over the past year, ever occurred.
At the second presidential debate earlier this month, Mr. Kerry said he was more attuned to international concerns on Iraq than President Bush, citing his meeting with the entire Security Council.
“This president hasn’t listened. I went to meet with the members of the Security Council in the week before we voted. I went to New York. I talked to all of them, to find out how serious they were about really holding Saddam Hussein accountable,” Mr. Kerry said of the Iraqi dictator.
Speaking before the Council on Foreign Relations in New York in December 2003, Mr. Kerry explained that he understood the “real readiness” of the United Nations to “take this seriously” because he met “with the entire Security Council, and we spent a couple of hours talking about what they saw as the path to a united front in order to be able to deal with Saddam Hussein.”
But of the five ambassadors on the Security Council in 2002 who were reached directly for comment, four said they had never met Mr. Kerry. The four also said that no one who worked for their countries’ U.N. missions had met with Mr. Kerry either.
The former ambassadors who said on the record they had never met Mr. Kerry included the representatives of Mexico, Colombia and Bulgaria. The ambassador of a fourth country gave a similar account on the condition that his country not be identified.
Ambassador Andres Franco, the permanent deputy representative from Colombia during its Security Council membership from 2001 to 2002, said, “I never heard of anything.”
Although Mr. Franco was quick to note that Mr. Kerry could have met some members of the panel, he also said that “everything can be heard in the corridors.”
Adolfo Aguilar Zinser, Mexico’s then-ambassador to the United Nations, said: “There was no meeting with John Kerry before Resolution 1441, or at least not in my memory.”
All had vivid recollections of the time frame when Mr. Kerry traveled to New York, as it was shortly before the Nov. 7, 2002, enactment of Resolution 1441, which said Iraq was in “material breach” of earlier disarmament resolutions and warned Baghdad of “serious consequences as a result of its continued violations.”
Stefan Tafrov, Bulgaria’s ambassador at the time, said he remembers the period well because it “was a very contentious time.”
After conversations with ambassadors from five members of the Security Council in 2002 and calls to all the missions of the countries then on the panel, The Times was only able to confirm directly that Mr. Kerry had met with representatives of France, Singapore and Cameroon.
In addition, second-hand accounts have Mr. Kerry meeting with representatives of Britain.
When reached for comment last week, an official with the Kerry campaign stood by the candidate’s previous claims that he had met with the entire Security Council.
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