Newest UN Member's Proud Moment

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When you're the newest, smallest fry in the geopolitical sea, you quickly learn to swim with the big fish.

So there was Kuniwo Nakamura of Palau, rubbing elbows this week with King Hussein of Jordan, talking environment with Hillary Clinton, trading favors with Japan, and rehearsing for his five minutes at the UN rostrum, his chance to tell the world what course to set for the 21st century.

Not only is Palau the newest United Nations member, gaining independence just last December after a half-century as a United States trusteeship, it's also the smallest, with just 16,000 people.

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And Mr. Nakamura can't wait to get back.

''Get me out of here!'' he said Tuesday. ''I don't know how New Yorkers can survive. Give me the slow pace, relaxed, more humane.''

Nakamura took advantage of his hectic four days in New York to raise Palau's profile among world leaders. All the while, the soft-spoken, University of Hawaii-educated president rehearsed his five-minute UN speech, an appeal on behalf of the Pacific environment and against nuclear testing that ended with an analogy likening the United Nations to his ancestors' ocean-crossing boats.

At 11:45 a.m. Oct. 24, the moment arrived. As the neophyte statesman waited in the wings, his cue resounded through the General Assembly hall:

''His Excellency, Mr. Kuniwo Nakamura, president of the Republic of Palau!''

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