Corridors of Power: Reporting from the U.N. General Assembly

Corridors of Power: Reporting from the U.N. General Assembly

AT THE UNITED NATIONS, NEW YORK -- The fanfare that opens the U.N. General Assembly's annual session is played on the sirens of New York police cars trying to clear a path through Manhattan traffic for the motorcades of visiting world leaders. New Yorkers are resigned to this autumnal ritual that causes midtown streets to be closed and fills the city's hotels to capacity -- at prices inflated for the occasion. The Waldorf Astoria Hotel, where President Bush overnighted Monday while in town to deliver the inaugural address the following morning became a fortress, surrounded by hundreds of New York's finest.

Stationed on key streets is the NYPD's new "toy," an Orwellian movable observation booth on a retractable steel arm some 30 feet above the ground. A sole policeman sits inside, observing the gridlock, but scarcely in a position to do much about it. Above him hover the helicopters, like giant fireflies. In the evening the mid-town police barricades are eased, but a movie crew takes over, blocking the area around East 42nd Street for on-location night shooting; and it is sometimes hard to tell whether the barriers are U.N.-related, or made in Hollywood.

BRAZIL IS NUMBER ONE -- In fact, Bush does not exactly inaugurate the General Assembly. After the secretary general's words of welcome, that distinction belongs by tradition to the president of Brazil. This year, inevitably, the buzz is about France's President Nicolas Sarkozy, who is making his debut at the General Assembly. On Sunday, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair appeared on the margins of a meeting of the Middle East Quartet (the United States, Russia, the United Nations, and the European Union) as its adviser, in a setting where he had once held center stage.

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