E-Mail From U.N. Plaza: Castro Sidesteps Clinton

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Fidel Castro arrived at JFK Airport in the middle of lunch hour and snarled traffic into midtown Manhattan. Shortly before, China's President Jiang Zemin had arrived and headed for the Waldorf Astoria, where President Clinton is also staying. But that posed a problem, because Castro and the Chinese president had planned to hold bilateral talks. If the meeting was held at the Waldorf, you could have U.S. and Cuban delegates crossing paths and some words. So the meeting was moved (in secret) to Cuba's fortresslike U.N. mission on Lexington Avenue.

Kofi Annan and his summit are now being rapidly overshadowed by the countless bilateral meetings around town. Besides Iranian president Mohammed Khatami's unscheduled roundtable "Dialogue of Civilizations" and the Jiang-Fidel talks, President Clinton also plans to meet Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat, hoping to jump-start Middle East negotiations.

Meanwhile, U.N. staffers still can't quite figure out why the summit is being held — this summit has no real agenda. In the halls the diplomats are saying that the real motive for this gathering is to kick off Annan's bid for a second term. A new secretary general will be selected in November of next year, and the summit is designed to garner support from the VIPs to reelect Kofi.