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New Yorkers Take UN Diplomats and Protesters in Stride


The diplomatic world and New York itself are abuzz this week as the United Nations General Assembly and demonstrators convene in the city.

Negotiating one's way through New York 's busy streets can be a challenge at any time. But this week, New Yorkers also have to contend with closed streets surrounding the United Nations complex and the security presence around President Barack Obama's nearby hotel that had choked midtown's sidewalks.

All that is fine with Raul, a man who normally sweeps the streets and picks up trash in the area. He says that with all the watchful police on the streets, people have been littering less.

"To tell you the truth, I love it," said Raul. "Tell Obama to come every today! I work less."

Within two blocks of the president's hotel, the atmosphere is more edgy, as demonstrators for various causes compete for media attention and the sympathies of passing U.N. delegates.

This Iranian-American has come from California to protest Iran 's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's U.N visit.

"We believe the Iranian government does not represent the Iranian people and there is need for a special election under United Nations supervision," he said.

Nearby, people calling themselves the Cameroon Alliance for Democracy Movement are waving their nation's distinctive green, red and yellow flag.

Alex Mbianda speaks for the group.

"The reason we are out here today is to demonstrate against President Paul Biya of Cameroon, about all the injustice that has taken place - corruption, no democracy, indiscriminate jailing of people that oppose his government," said Alex Mbianda. "So we want the world to know that he is still there and he has been there for 27 years!"

Not all the demonstrators at the U.N. represent national movements. Tuesday was set aside at the United Nations for a wide-ranging discussion of climate change. That is why environmental groups such as Tick Tick Tick are out in force, calling for immediate international action to combat global warming.

Ben Margolis is with the international coalition.

"Inside the U.N. are most of the world leaders meeting to talk about climate change and we are here because they need to strike a deal in Copenhagen in December," said Ben Margolis. "And we don't believe they are going far enough and fast enough."

Not everyone here in this city of more than eight million people has an agenda, other than to get through the day. Many New Yorkers are taking the disruption in very much in stride. As one bus driver put it, "I've been in three frozen traffic zones in the past two days, but I'm thawing out now."

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