- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 5, 2001

NEW YORK The Bush administration wants the United Nations to coordinate aid to and the political reconstruction of Afghanistan, but will insist that the organization's actions support the U.S. war against that country's purveyors of terrorism, said U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte.

"The U.N.'s role is cast in concrete," the envoy said last week over a cup of coffee in his office at the U.S. Mission here.

"We want to root out the al Qaeda terrorist network and displace the Taliban leadership. Whatever else is done has to be supportive of those two missions."

Mr. Negroponte praised the role of Lakhdar Brahimi, the U.N. envoy to Afghanistan who is finishing weeklong negotiations among rival Afghan parties to create an interim administration. He praised the delivery of emergency humanitarian assistance as "absolutely crucial."

In the longer run, the ambassador said, the most important U.N. contribution is a sweeping new Security Council resolution that calls on all governments to crack down on those who support or harbor terrorist groups.

A special counterterrorism committee, with binding powers not unlike the Iraqi sanctions committee, has been established to coordinate these efforts.

"That resolution bans the financing of terrorism and related activities; it will set the standard for combating terrorism," Mr. Negroponte said during the interview in his office, with its view of the U.N. campus and the East River beyond.

Since arriving here shortly after the September 11 attacks speeded up his Senate confirmation, Mr. Negroponte, 62, has been forced to delegate most of the administration's economic and social priorities to a staff of five senior aides, each of whom holds the title of ambassador.

Mr. Negroponte himself tall and sure-spoken on the subjects he chooses to discuss has been largely preoccupied with the twin subjects of Afghanistan and anti-terrorism measures.

By his own account, he has met with 75 ambassadors, accompanied U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on a trip to Washington last week and visited the site of the World Trade Center with foreign dignitaries.

"I believe in personal diplomacy," he said, noting that at the United Nations, with its 189-nation members, that will include a couple of receptions each night and often a luncheon or dinner as well.

"You're not the first one to arrive, or the last to leave. You have to maximize your time," he said of the daunting schedule.

The ambassador often is accompanied by his wife, Diana, herself a seasoned if unofficial diplomat who is earning a doctoral degree in international relations at Georgetown University. The couple have adopted five Honduran children, now ages 9 to 19.

Diplomats who have met Mr. Negroponte or worked with him on the Security Council say he is a persuasive advocate of U.S. positions.

"He is not Richard Holbrooke," said one envoy, referring the gregarious former ambassador's ability to turn a handshake into an arm-twisting. "Different style, different issues for now."

One issue of great interest to the Bush administration is a month-old Security Council resolution that requires every government to crack down on the financing and harboring of terrorist groups. The resolution also creates a counterterrorism committee, which is expecting reports from all U.N. member states by the end of December.

Mr. Negroponte, an unflappable diplomat who has held senior positions for both Democratic and Republican administrations, is a cautious professional not given to straying much beyond his talking points.

Asked whether the war on terrorism will shift to Iraq, as many prominent conservatives are advocating, Mr. Negroponte closes his mouth into a smile. Nor is he willing to discuss Washington's expectations for a military "coalition of the willing" to provide interim security for Afghanistan.

However, he volunteers that the terrorist attacks may have a silver lining.

"One positive outcome of the September 11 attacks is that there is a greater feeling of consensus, a feeling that we can find ways to work together at the United Nations," he said.

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