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'Guernica' Cover-Up Raises Suspicions

THE WORLD

February 06, 2003|Maggie Farley | Times Staff Writer

UNITED NATIONS — As Secretary of State Colin L. Powell presented evidence to help U.N. ambassadors decide whether or not to go to war against Iraq, there was one important thing they did not see: Pablo Picasso's "Guernica."

A tapestry version of one of the world's greatest antiwar works that adorns the wall outside the Security Council chamber was covered Wednesday by a blue curtain with U.N. logos. A U.N. commentary on war and peace? ambassadors wondered. Trying to avert a diplomatic incident, the U.N. spokesman explained.

When U.N. media officials moved a microphone where diplomats stop to talk to journalists in front of the tapestry to accommodate the crush of media covering Powell's presentation, TV reporters complained that the wild lines and screaming figures on the tapestry made a bad backdrop. And in head shots, a horse's hindquarters appeared just above the face of the speaker.

U.N. officials covered it, but they deny that they were intentionally hiding a symbolic statement about both the horrors of war and the art of diplomacy.

The work portrays a Spanish Civil War aerial bombing.

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