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Pakistan's leader cozies up to Palin

On the Trail / FOREIGN RELATIONS

September 25, 2008|Bob Drogin

Sarah Palin, John McCain's running mate, has been getting a crash course in diplomacy and international affairs this week, meeting her first foreign heads of state courtesy of the U.N. General Assembly's annual gathering of international bigwigs.

Most of the meetings have gone off without a hitch, a lightning round of sessions in which curious world leaders finally get a gander at a potential vice president who has rarely traveled abroad and who has claimed that her foreign policy credentials include living in a state that is close to Russia.

On Wednesday, however, officials traveling with Pakistan's new president, Asif Ali Zardari, got up close and personal.

Shortly before Palin met the Pakistani leader at the InterContinental Hotel, aides for the two squabbled about whether they should sit behind a low coffee table. Zardari's aides wanted a table, Palin's staff did not. Ultimately the table was taken away. Score one for the Americans.

Entering the room, Palin was introduced not only to Zardari but to Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Quershi, Pakistan's foreign minister, and Sherry Rehman, the information minister.

"So nice to meet you," Palin said politely.

"Busy on the campaign trail?" Rehman asked.

"Yes, yes," Palin replied.

"How does one keep looking that good?" Rehman inquired.

"Oh, oh, thank you," the governor responded.

At that point, Zardari entered and the conversation turned decidedly flirtatious. He told her she was "even more gorgeous" than he thought.

"You are so nice," Palin said. "Thank you."

Zardari pressed on: "Now I know why the whole of America is crazy about you."

At that point a Zardari handler asked them to shake hands again for the cameras.

"I'm supposed to pose again," Palin said.

"If he's insisting," Zardari said, "I might hug."

Eventually, real business got underway.

Palin, who has yet to hold a news conference since McCain plucked her from relative obscurity on Aug. 29, even answered a reporter's question as to how she enjoyed her meetings.

"It's going great," she said. "The meetings are very informative and helpful. A lot of good people share an appreciation for America."

-- Bob Drogin

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