Queen's return to the UN after a 53-year absence

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The Independent US

Just as they emerge from a long weekend celebrating America's independence from Britain, the citizens of New York will pause today to welcome Queen Elizabeth II into their midst before she addresses the General Assembly of the United Nations and take a tour of ground zero where the Twin Towers once stood.

That Her Majesty will receive a warm welcome at the UN where she last delivered a speech more than five decades ago in 1957 is not in question. The giant hall will be filled with the representatives of the 192 member nations, with a smattering of special guests drawn from the British community in Manhattan, like Joanna Coles, editor-in-chief of Marie-Claire magazine, and The Daily Beast founder Tina Brown.

With temperatures expected to brush 38C, it will be a warm welcome and a day when even the hardiest will wilt. But British sangfroid will be maintained. "We have not taken any particular steps to cope with the temperature," one British spokesperson said last night. It has been established, however, that Ground Zero, now sprouting new skyscrapers and a memorial almost nine years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, will be in the shade by the time the Queen, who is 84, arrives there with her husband, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh.

Tacked on to her just-completed tour of Canada, the visit to New York is the Queen's first since 1976, when she took part in celebrations to mark the 200th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. Gerald Ford was US President. On her first swing through the city in 1957, the White House belonged to Dwight Eisenhower whose limousine she rode in to wave at the excited throngs on lower Broadway.

The days when a British monarch could draw thousands on to the streets have long gone. In 1957, she was even treated to a ticker-tape parade, a ritual reserved these days for sporting champions. And this visit – it culminates in a visit to a sliver of green in lower Manhattan called the British Garden built in honour of UK citizens killed in the 2001 attacks – will be shadowed by Scotland Yard and FBI agents watching for her safety.

Fifty three years ago, the Queen delivered a spare speech of just eight paragraphs to the UN, lauding it as a place "dedicated to peace, where representatives from all over the world meet to examine the problems of the time". With Britain at war in Afghanistan, the focus may this time be more on problems than on peace.

Escorting the Queen and her husband from the moment she touches down from Canada aboard a private jet will be Sir Nigel Sheinwald, the British ambassador to the United States in Washington, and Sir Alan Collins, the British consul general in Manhattan.

While at the UN, she is also due to have a brief meeting with Ban Ki-moon, the secretary general. She may also meet David Paterson, the Governor of New York.

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