By Farah Stockman, Globe Staff
WASHINGTON -- President Obama has planned a whirlwind 2 1/2 day schedule at the United Nations later this month, going well beyond the traditional routine for US presidents.
In addition to the annual speech at the opening of the UN General Assembly on Sept. 23, the same day Obama will host a luncheon for African heads of state and hold a separate gathering for the largest contributors to peacekeeping. The next day, he will preside over an unusual summit meeting of the Security Council on arms control. In addition, Obama will speak at the Secretary General's Climate Change Summit.
"We are taking a new approach to the United Nations," UN ambassador Susan Rice told reporters today, adding: "We're rolling up our sleeves" to push for changes from within rather than "criticizing from the outside."
But the ambitious schedule is also likely to lead to some moments of discomfort. The Security Council summit will feature heads of state -- rare for the 15-nation body -- and that gives Muammar Gaddafi, the unpredictable leader of Libya, a high-profile platform.
But efforts have been taken to prevent awkward encounters. Obama will not bump into Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the American reception that he is hosting on Sept. 23 because Iran is not invited.
Rice said US officials will meet with their counterparts from Britain, France, China, Russia, and Germany to discuss the appropriate response to a five-page letter from Iran pledging to "embark on comprehensive, all-encompassing and constructive negotiations."
The letter did not name the nuclear program as an issue for the talks, and US officials said Thursday that it did not go far enough to address international concerns.
But Rice took a softer tone.
"We are going to take the time very carefully over the next days an weeks to evaluate the Iranian response," she said. "I don't want to prejudge the outcome of our assessment."
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.