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Obama, in election mode, tightens his UN diplomacy

President Obama addresses the U.N. General Assembly this week. But with the presidential election approaching, he won't meet with counterparts, leaving that to Secretary of State Clinton.

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"My message to the presidents of Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and these other countries is, we want to be a partner with you," Obama said. "We stand on the side of democracy. But democracy is not just an election. Are you looking out for minority rights, are you respecting freedom of speech, are you treating women fairly?"

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Part of the world is on fire as Obama gets to the United Nations, as is the case each year for all presidents. He will be followed not just by the successes he likes to mention, such as the receding tide of U.S.-led wars, but by a Syrian conflict that has stymied the Security Council and by tensions with ally Israel over confronting Iran.

This time last year, with Mideast peace at the forefront, Obama's schedule was packed with personal diplomacy. He set up separate meetings with the leaders of Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Afghanistan, Brazil, Turkey, Japan, Britain, and France, among others. This year, not one is scheduled.

"I think his engagement with foreign leaders has been, and will continue to be, extremely robust," said White House spokesman Jay Carney. "His attendance at [the U.N. General Assembly] is in keeping with attendance by past presidents engaged in a reelection campaign, and we'll be there overnight in New York."

Both Presidents George W. Bush in 2004 and Bill Clinton in 1996, though, held a series of meetings with foreign leaders during U.N. visits in their re-election years. The Obama White House opted not to jam in a few and risk offending the allies who were left out, administration officials said.

Instead, the secretary of state will see the presidents of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Tunisia, Yemen and Myanmar as well as the king of Jordan and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Those meetings will be critical to Obama's foreign policy as Washington deals with the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, the fallout from the Arab Spring and a delicate time in U.S.-Israeli relations, as officials in Israel continue to speak of a military strike on Iran.

Domestic politics bookend Obama's trip.

When he gets to town, Obama will join his wife, Michelle, on the set of ABC's "The View," where his appearance in 2010 drew a television audience of roughly 6.5 million people. The president's final business in New York will be to speak at Bill Clinton's global initiative – just a few hours after Romney does the same.

Associated Press Writer Matthew Lee and AP News Researcher Judith Ausuebel in New York contributed to this report.

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