UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N. General Assembly president, a former minister in a left-wing Nicaraguan government, has congratulated Barack Obama on being elected U.S. president and invited him to address the assembly.
Miguel D’Escoto Brockmann sent Obama a letter this week suggesting that he address the other 191 U.N. member states “at his convenience after assuming his new functions,” assembly spokesman Enrique Yeves told reporters on Friday.
Obama, a Democrat, takes office on January 20 following his November 4 election victory over Republican John McCain.
The U.S. president always addresses the General Assembly at its annual general debate in September, but is not limited to then. Outgoing President George W. Bush spoke on Thursday at an assembly debate on dialogue between different religions.
A U.N. official said he could not immediately recall a case of a General Assembly president sending a similar letter to a newly elected leader and suggested D’Escoto wanted to show readiness to work with the new U.S. administration despite his anti-American reputation.
The invitation comes after years of strained ties between the United Nations and the Bush administration, partly centering over the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, which former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said was illegal.
D’Escoto was foreign minister in Nicaragua’s Sandinista government in the 1980s, when it was battling a U.S.-backed Contra insurgency. In a 2004 interview he described former U.S. President Ronald Reagan as “the butcher of my people” and said Bush was Reagan’s spiritual heir.
Reporting by Patrick Worsnip; editing by Chris Wilson