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New U.S. ambassador greeted warmly at U.N.

UNITED NATIONS — Linda Thomas-Greenfield presented her credentials as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations to Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday, officially taking on one of the most challenging jobs for the Biden administration of helping to restore the United States as a top multilateral player on the global stage after former President Donald Trump’s unilateral “America First” policy.

The longtime American career diplomat thanked President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, who swore her in Wednesday, for choosing her for the “distinguished position.”

“That was made all the more wonderful because I knew you were here,” she told Guterres who served as the U.N.’s refugee chief before his election to the U.N. post. “I worked with you in the past on refugee issues so I’m looking forward very anxiously to getting to work and working on many of the key issues that we know are before the United Nations and we know that people around the globe are looking to us for.”

Guterres warmly welcomed Thomas-Greenfield, calling her a “distinguished global citizen” with great compassion for refugees.

Thomas-Greenfield and Guterres then moved to his private office on the 38th floor of U.N. headquarters overlooking New York’s East River for private talks.

She will be jumping right into her new job, tackling global peace and security issues with Russia, China and a dozen other countries because the United States takes over the rotating presidency of the powerful U.N. Security Council on Monday. And she might even decide to attend a council meeting today.

Russia’s deputy U.N. ambassador Dmitry Polyansky told a group of reporters Wednesday that “the red carpet” will be rolled out for Thomas-Greenfield and Moscow is ready to work with Biden’s administration — but “it takes two to tango.”

“We are looking forward to interactions with her,” he said. “You can count on our most favorable attitudes and positive emotions towards her as a member of our Security Council family.”

Noting Thomas-Greenfield’s decades as a U.S. diplomat, he said “it’s always easier to interact with professionals.”

But he said America’s view that Russia is “an enemy” and a “threat” hasn’t changed under Biden, so “it’s very difficult to imagine how the interaction with us might change with such starting points of the positions of the new administration.”

Nonetheless, Polyansky said, “there are a lot of things Russia and the United States can do together,” and “we will judge the new administration by what it does.”

“We’re in favor of cooperation,” he said. But “it takes two to tango, and really we’re ready to dance, but we need a good and reliable partner who knows all the moves and who respects us” as a country with certain positions, “doesn’t view us as a threat” and sees “our obvious national interests in many issues.”

Thomas-Greenfield, a retired 35-year veteran of the U.S. foreign service who rose to be assistant secretary of state for Africa, resigned during the Trump administration. She will be the third Black diplomat, and the second Black woman, to hold the U.N. post.

Her confirmation Tuesday was hailed by Democrats and advocates of the United Nations who had lamented Trump’s “America First” unilateral approach to international affairs and rejoiced at Biden’s return to multilateralism.

At the Senate hearing on her nomination, Thomas-Greenfield called China “a strategic adversary” that threatens the world, and called a speech she gave in 2019 that praised China’s initiatives in Africa but made no mention of its human rights abuses a mistake.

The Senate voted 78-20 to confirm her with Republican opponents saying she was soft on China and would not stand up for U.S. principles at the U.N.

Thomas-Greenfield said at the hearing that Washington will be working not only with allies “but to see where we can find common ground with the Russians and the Chinese to put more pressure on the Iranians to push them back into strict compliance” with the 2015…

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