UNITED NATIONS (AFP) — Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin is about to take her first tentative steps onto the world stage, with UN talks with the leaders of Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.
The Alaska Governor, who has been pilloried by Democrats who warn she is far too inexperienced in global affairs to serve a "heartbeat" away from the presidency, plans to get in some diplomatic cramming here.
On the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, she is expected on Tuesday to meet US anti-terror ally and Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe.
The talks will offer Palin some diplomatic cover ahead of her debate with Democratic vice presidential nominee Senator Joseph Biden -- a noted foreign policy expert -- on October 2.
On Wednesday, the Alaska governor is expected to join Republican presidential candidate John McCain in meeting Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko and Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili.
McCain has been an outspoken foe of Russia and both he and Palin have backed the idea of NATO membership for the two countries, though they stressed they do not want another Cold War.
Palin is also expected to meet Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and new Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari later on Wednesday, before joining McCain to meet Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
The Alaska governor will also meet U2 singer and global anti-poverty campaign Bono on the sidelines of the UN meeting, said the ONE campaign, which is associated with the Irish rocker.
The McCain campaign specifically asked to include Palin in Bono's planned talks with the Republican presidential nominee, ONE said in a statement.
Bono also hopes to hold a meeting with Democratic nominee Barack Obama before the November 4 election, the campaign said.
Palin's debut on the international scene has been the subject of intense speculation on the fringes of the UN General Assembly.
The McCain campaign has refused to officially confirm details of her program and she is not expected to hold press conferences with the foreign leaders.
Since she was named as McCain's running mate, Palin has had to endure a storm of criticism over her lack of foreign policy experience, given that McCain, at 72, would be the oldest president ever inaugurated for a first term.
She was widely criticized for her comments that she had a unique perspective of worsening US-Moscow relations, given the fact that her state of Alaska was the closest point in the United States to Russia.
The McCain campaign had previously criticized Obama's lack of experience on the international stage, which he attempted to defuse with visits to Iraq, Afghanistan, Jordan, Israel, Germany, France and Britain earlier this year.
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