- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 23, 2008

NEW YORK | Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who has never met a foreign leader and has a team of advisers briefing her on foreign policy, will get a two-day crash course this week, meeting a half-dozen presidents and prime ministers from political hot spots around the globe.

With 120 world leaders in New York City for the 63rd annual U.N. General Assembly session, the Republican vice-presidential nominee plans meetings with Pakistan’s newly elected president, Asif Ali Zardari; Afghan President Hamid Karzai; Iraqi President Jalal Talabani; the presidents of Georgia and Ukraine, Mikhail Saakashvili and Viktor Yushchenko, respectively, in a joint meeting; Colombian President Alvaro Uribe; and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

“This is a great opportunity for Governor Palin to meet and discuss pertinent world issues with the same foreign leaders she will be dealing with as vice president,” a Palin campaign aide said.

Mrs. Palin has been ridiculed by opponents for her lack of foreign-policy experience. “Saturday Night Live” mocked her for saying in her first TV interview: “You can see Russia from land here.” She got her first passport last year to visit Alaska National Guard members serving in Kuwait and Germany.

As she prepares for her Oct. 2 debate against Democratic vice-presidential nominee Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., widely considered one of the most experienced foreign-policy experts in the Senate, the campaign hopes to give her a few experiences with world leaders - and the ability to say in the debate: “When I was talking with the Afghan president last week … .”

Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, though, ridiculed her schedule of hastily scheduled meetings, saying the McCain-Palin ticket would continue President Bush’s foreign-policy priorities.

“A few meetings at the U.N. won’t change the fact that John McCain is promising four more years of the same cowboy diplomacy that has shredded our alliances and set back our ability to fight international terrorism,” said campaign spokesman Hari Sevugan.

McCain surrogates put stock in the four-term Arizona senator’s vast experience on the world stage as they criticize Mr. Obama’s lack of credentials. “He doesn’t have the grasp of John McCain’s understanding of foreign policy, with all those leaders John McCain knows,” Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter said on Monday at a town-hall meeting in Scranton.

Even before Mrs. Palin’s arrival in New York, rumors swirled about where she would go and with whom she would meet. One put her at President Bush’s reception with some 40 world leaders Monday night. The White House said that was not true.

Another said Mrs. Palin might join the U.S. delegation for the U.N. session Tuesday, allowing her to enter the U.N. building and sit in the grand hall to see Mr. Bush give his farewell address to the world body. Yet another said she may take part in a meeting on Afghanistan.

“She is not part of the U.S. U.N. mission now. She is not part of the delegation,” U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad told reporters Monday.

But one thing is true: If she does go to the United Nations, she can add another foreign spot to her travels - the U.N. building is considered international territory.

On her tour of New York, the Republican vice-presidential nominee also will confer with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and sit down with her running mate, Mr. McCain, for some face time with rock star/humanitarian activist Bono.

She could use her meeting with Mr. Kissinger, who was secretary of state under Presidents Nixon and Ford, to seek his counsel on a host of global concerns.

Mrs. Palin has downplayed the resume of Delaware’s Mr. Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Americans, she said, are not interested in “somebody’s big, fat resume that shows decades in that Washington establishment, where they’ve had opportunities to meet heads of state.”

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