Palin rubs shoulders with foreign leaders in NY

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin met on Wednesday with leaders of international hot spots, part of a carefully choreographed campaign to expose the candidate to foreign affairs while shielding her from the media.

Only brief glimpses of Palin, running mate to Republican presidential nominee John McCain in the November 4 election, were permitted as she met with leaders from Georgia, Ukraine, Iraq and Pakistan who are in New York for the U.N. General Assembly.

Palin, who as governor of Alaska lacks foreign policy experience, could be heard chatting politely during the fleeting seconds the media was allowed to witness.

“There’s plenty to do here, isn’t there? Plenty to see,” said Palin to Iraqi leaders as she perched in an upholstered chair in a New York hotel, her hands folded in her lap.

“I have plenty to do at home also,” replied Iraqi first lady Hero Ahmed.

The exchange was warmer at Palin’s meeting with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, who greeted Palin with a huge smile, called her “gorgeous” and said he understood why many Americans “are crazy about you.”

Palin told reporters the day was “going great.”

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“The meetings are very informative and helpful. A lot of good people share an appreciation for America,” she said.

Prior to Tuesday, when Palin met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, she had never met a foreign leader. Aides say she got her first passport in 2006.

Her lack of foreign policy expertise has been the subject of criticism from Democrats and even some Republicans.

The McCain campaign has been readying her for an October 2 debate with her Democratic counterpart Joe Biden,- a veteran senator from Delaware who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and has broad knowledge of foreign policy issues.

The crash course in foreign policy is combined with efforts to keep Palin, a novice on the national political scene, at a safe distance from the media.

Since her nomination earlier this month, Palin has given no news conferences and only two nationally televised interviews. A third, with CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric, was taped earlier on Wednesday and set to air in the evening.

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Palin met solo with Iraqi and with Pakistani leaders but was joined by McCain in meetings with Ukraine President Viktor Yushchenko and Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili.

There, she sat between the two foreign leaders and appeared to be listening attentively as they spoke.

Asked by a reporter what she had learned in earlier meetings, Palin turned to McCain but did not reply. Aides shooed the media from the room.

A meeting of Palin, McCain and rock star Bono, the lead singer for the band U2 who is active on behalf of African causes, was off limits to the press entirely.

Additional reporting by Steve Holland; editing by David Wiessler