Stewart Stogel is a veteran print/broadcast journalist whose work has appeared in Time, Newsweek, the Miami Herald, Washington Times, ABC News and NBC News. Major stories broken include the death of legendary Alabama football coach Paul "Bear" Bryant, the beginning of the U.S. invasion of Iraq (Operation Desert Storm, 1991), and the failure of the U.S./UK military to find WMD in Iraq (March 2003).More ↓Less ↑
UNITED NATIONS – After snubbing a request from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for a meeting in New York later this month, Barack Obama apparently has decided also to pass on meetings with key Arab leaders.
Among the notables expected at the U.N. for its General Assembly beginning Sept. 23 are Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and newly elected Libyan Prime Minister Mustafa Abushagur.
Both leaders are traveling to the U.N. on the heels of major riots in Cairo and Benghazi, where terrorists attacked and killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three American staffers.
Repeated inquiries to the White House, the State Department and the U.S. mission to the U.N. about whether Obama would alter the schedule of his New York visit to see the Arab dignitaries were met with silence.
Earlier, the White House explained that “campaign demands” necessitated that Obama shorten his U.N. visit from three days to two.
Neither U.S. mission spokesman Kurtis Cooper nor White House press secretary Jay Carney would answer queries on whether Obama would now consider changing the itinerary of his upcoming visit in recognition of recent events.
U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice was also silent on the issue.
The U.N. had no information on the developing story other than to confirm that all the leaders have an outstanding invitation to lunch with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon during their visit to the General Assembly.
The Egyptian and Libyan missions to the U.N. also had no word as to whether Obama would now meet their leaders in New York.
While Obama may not have time for the Arabs, another president will.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, also expected in New York for the General Assembly, is expected to confer with both leaders to discuss issues of mutual interest.
The Iranian visit comes as Tehran braces for new confrontations with both Washington and the Security Council.
Last month, Iran announced it will enrich uranium for its nuclear “research” program to 20-percent purity. That level, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N, atomic watchdog, is just short of the purity needed for weapons-grade fuel.
It is a line in the sand that is critical to Israel’s national security, proclaimed Netanyahu.
Yet for Obama, domestic campaign demands apparently took precedence over the rapidly collapsing atmosphere in the Middle East.
Richard Grennel, a veteran U.S. diplomat to the U.N. summed it up.
“The United Nations General Assembly is the perfect place to have a one-on-one meeting with the leaders of Egypt and Libya, especially at this crucial time, It is troubling that President Obama isn’t interested in making those meetings happen.”