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UN diplomacy is serious--but not always sober

Diplomacy is a serious business--but not, it seems, always a sober one.

Diplomacy is a serious business--but not, it seems, always a sober one.  United Nations officials'  latest challenge: trying to make their workplace an “inebriation-free zone.”

Joseph Torsella, the U.S. Ambassador for Management and Reform, issued a rare public scolding on personal conduct during business operations. On Thursday, Ambassador Torsella formally requested that his colleagues refrain from the bubbly-- at least until after meetings.

"As for the conduct of negotiations, Mr. Chairman, we make the modest proposal that the negotiating rooms should in future be an inebriation-free zone,” said Torsella. “While my government is truly grateful for the strategic opportunities presented by some recent past practices, let's save the champagne for toasting the successful end of the session, and do some credit to the Fifth Committee's reputation in the process.”

The senior diplomat noted--on the record--that drunken debates have noticeably slowed down budget negotiations held by the Fifth Committee, which handles administration and budgetary matters.

In recent years, UN officials have been forced to leave the building in order to party. The storied Delegate's Lounge, a bar located inside the UN’s Manhattan headquarters, closed in 2009 after massive building renovation. The diplomats and their staffs protested.

The UN, which carefully accommodates all sorts of cultures from around the globe, has been historically slow to change. After New York City banned smoking indoors 10 years ago, the UN waited to ban it until five years later.