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Foreign affair: Bolton hosts U.N. crew at Knicks game

NEW YORK -- U.S. Ambassador John Bolton decided to root for
the New York Knicks though he admitted it was risky not to support
the San Antonio Spurs -- especially for a member of President Bush's
administration.

Bolton hosted the U.N. Security Council at a Knicks game Monday
night for the second time in eight months. For the diplomats, it
was a night to change focus from Iran, Sudan and the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict and to fouls, free throws and
cheerleaders.

Bolton, however, could not quite forget Tuesday's hotly
contested elections or the real work of the Security Council.

The U.S. ambassador is from Baltimore, "so I don't have a dog
in this fight," he said.

"But I said I was supporting the Knicks, because you have to
root for the home team. San Antonio is a Texas team," Bolton said.
"This is a little dangerous for a Bush administration official --
to be against the Texas team."

The San Antonio Spurs beat the Knicks 105-93.

When the team came very close to closing the gap in the fourth
quarter, China's U.N. Ambassador Wang Guangya and other council
members were on their feet cheering -- along with thousands of
Knicks fans in Madison Square Garden.

"It was so close -- it was so close," Bolton said after the
Knicks lost. "It's like negotiating in the Security Council."

Wang, who brought his wife, said "since we are in New York we
would like to see the Knicks picking up. They lost momentum. But
it's fun -- for two or three hours we think of nothing but sport."

Wang said he wanted to bring China's most famous basketball
star, Yao Ming, who plays for the Houston Rockets and "is now an
icon in China," to New York for the evening but he was too busy.

For many years, American basketball teams have been "a great
sensation" among Chinese young people, he said.

Allan Houston, a former Knick, said he was excited at getting to
meet members of the U.N.'s most powerful body -- "these people who
change the world."

"It was so close -- it was so close. It's like negotiating in the Security Council."
U.S. Ambassador John Bolton on Monday's Spurs-Knicks game

Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin played basketball in
high school but had never been to Madison Square Garden until
Monday. "It is historic for me," he said.

At least one Security Council member was delighted that the
Spurs won.

Argentina's U.N. Ambassador Cesar Mayoral said he was rooting
for San Antonio because the team has two Argentine players --
Fabricio Oberto and Manu Ginobili.

In February, Denmark's U.N. Ambassador Ellen Margrethe Loj, the
only woman on the 15-member council, got a crash course on how to
play basketball from former NBA player Mike Bantom -- now the NBA's
senior vice president for player development.

When she arrived in the VIP skybox, Bantom remembered her.

"Last time, I asked stupid questions," she joked. "This time,
I know more. Don't ask me what!"

Maintaining his neutrality, National Basketball Association
Commissioner David Stern handed out caps from both teams to the
ambassadors.

"We think that basketball is the international language," he
said, "It brings people together."