DIPLOMACY: Magnificent Obsession

Atop the windswept roof of Manhattan's United Nations headquarters one afternoon two years ago, four men clustered solemnly around a portable incinerator. A tall, somber-faced U.N. political officer named Povl Bang-Jensen dropped three sealed envelopes into the flames, watched intently as the documents withered into ashes.

To Bang-Jensen (pronounced bong-yensen), longtime counselor at the Danish legation in Washington before he joined the U.N. staff in 1949, the burning of the papers was a victory for honor and principle. Inside the envelopes were the names of 81 Hungarian refugees who, at hearings of a U.N. committee in Geneva and Vienna in...

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