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In a wide-ranging press conference at United Nations headquarters on December 2nd, the United States’ UN ambassador Susan Rice continued to play down any negative impact from WikiLeaks‘ release of sensitive State Department documents. She also denied that any of the U.S. diplomats, at least those under her control, had done anything improper. She carried over the same theme that she relayed to reporters earlier in the week on November 29th when the State Department leaks were first published. Responding to reporters’ questions on both occasions, Rice said that “our diplomats are just that – diplomats. That’s what they do every day. They do the work of diplomats and nothing else.”
Rice did manage during her December 2nd press conference to go beyond her previous bland remarks in one respect. This time she used the words “reprehensible” and “inexcusable” to describe the leaks. However, this rhetorical slap on WikiLeaks‘ wrist hardly compares with her boss, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who on November 29th told reporters in Washington that “this disclosure is not just an attack on America’s foreign policy interests, it is an attack on the international community.” Hillary also claimed that the latest leaks put “people’s lives in danger, threatens our national security, and undermines our efforts to work with other countries to solve shared problems.”
Rice does not appear to be on the same page as Clinton. She believes that everything is fine in UN paradise irrespective of WikiLeaks.
One would think that the disclosure of State Department cables instructing U.S. delegates at the United Nations and at embassies abroad to collect highly personal information concerning foreign diplomats and UN officials, right up to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, would have disturbed Ambassador Rice. But even that did not faze her.
Rice refused to make any comment on the substance of these explosive cables, referring to them as “alleged classified material.”
As for the impact of their disclosure, Rice’s attitude was essentially “no worries.” She told reporters that, aside from a bit of “unpleasantness” and “awkwardness” after the news first came out, she was gratified to have received the support of many of her colleagues in other UN delegations. “They understand,” Rice said, “we are here to work with them as partners and colleagues.” She expressed confidence that American diplomats at the United Nations and around the world would continue “excellently the work they do every day in supporting and advancing the interests of the United States.”
Hillary Clinton appears to be far more worried than Rice, or maybe Rice is just a much better actress.
In any case, Rice has put as much distance between herself and Clinton on the WikiLeaks issue as she could without appearing too obvious.
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