Obama 25 minutes late for UN luncheon

AP News
Posted: Sep 21, 2011 7:26 PM
Obama 25 minutes late for UN luncheon

President Barack Obama was more than a little envious when he got up to toast U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the United Nations Wednesday.

The secretary-general, who spoke first at the annual luncheon he hosted for world leaders, thanked leaders from the 193 U.N. member states for re-electing him to a second five-year term in June.

"This is my fifth lunch with the distinguished leaders of the world, and I am very grateful for your strong support," Ban said. "I am very glad that it is not my last lunch, and we will have five more lunches in the coming five years."

Obama, who faces a tough campaign for re-election in November 2012, welcomed Ban's re-election and praised his "extraordinary leadership."

"A lot of us are envious of him because in running for a second term, he ran unopposed _ and he won unanimously," Obama said, as the presidents, prime ministers and monarch burst into laughter.

"I'm still trying to learn what his trick is," the president said to more laughter.

Last year, the luncheon toasts were delayed because Obama arrived 40 minutes late. The secretary-general and the VIPs were eating their first course when he showed up.

This year, Obama did better, arriving just 25 minutes late.

Obama was seated between Ban and Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma, whose 2007 election was seen as a test of the West African country's emergence from the chaos of a decade-long war. He too faces a contested election next year.

Obama had a chance to chat with Koroma and other leaders at the head table as they savored a lunch of roast lamb with goat cheese and peppers, followed by a creme brulee dessert with red fruits, and washed down with wines _ a French white and a California red.

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The rulers of Bahrain and Qatar were seated there as was King Abdullah II of Jordan, the presidents of Georgia, Peru and Niger, President Lee Myung from Ban's native South Korea, and Salva Kiir, the president of newly independent South Sudan. That country became a U.N. member state in July.

In his toast, the secretary-general thanked "the United States and its generous people for hosting the United Nations the last 66 years."

And Ban offered a special thank you to New Yorkers.

"In the last month, they have faced an earthquake, then a hurricane and now a perfect storm of the world's leaders, creating a lot of traffic jams," he said. "We are very grateful for their presence."

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