She might have wanted to keep her head down, but instead the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, yesterday landed in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, for a meeting of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

At the gathering she will meet 61 heads of state, government and other leading dignitaries, many of whom will still be smarting from America's supposedly secret - and in many cases unflattering - assessments, as revealed in this week's WikiLeaks disclosure of secret US diplomatic cables.

So if America's leading diplomat wanted to keep a low profile, Astana was probably the last place to be.


The first rule of diplomacy must surely be - avoid being rude to your host. In that respect Clinton has already come unstuck before meeting the Kazakh President. The Secretary of State may be asked to explain diplomat Steven Fagin's suggestion that Nazarbayev had a "strong affinity for horses", and officials questioning the ethics of his trading property in his own country for a palace in the United Arab Emirates.


Clinton will probably also avoid insisting that the energetic Italian Prime Minister takes a break from the conference's punishing schedule, despite US officials in Rome reporting that Berlusconi doesn't get enough sleep. According to the cables, diplomats reckon that the Italian Prime Minister's "frequent late nights and penchant for partying hard mean he does not get sufficient rest".


The Americans are unlikely to remind the Russian President of Berlusconi's presence at the conference either. The Americans think the Italian is a poodle of the Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who though lower in rank, is Batman to Medvedev's Robin.


The German Chancellor's reaction to Clinton should be warmer, although the Americans will be wondering if it is all genuine. In one cable sent from the US Embassy in Berlin in early March 2009, ambassador Philip Murphy refers to her as "Angela 'Teflon' Merkel" for her habit of steering clear of conflict with the US. A meeting with the German Foreign Minister, Guido Westerwelle, could be tougher. He is "incompetent, vain and critical of America", according to the cables.


The UN Secretary-General may want to check that he has locked his room before he goes off to meet the Secretary of State after the cables revealed Clinton ordered staff to provide detailed technical information about the UN's communications systems, as well as biometric data of important UN officials.


Not that relations were warm between the US and Karzai before the WikiLeaks disclosure, but Clinton's meeting with the Afghan President will be especially awkward after Karzai was accused in the leaked cables of being "weak". Even so, the Secretary of State might be tempted to just ask why the President has released nearly 30 former detainees of Guantanamo Bay to fight US troops, now that everything is out in the open anyway.


At least France's "thin-skinned" President will not have to meet Clinton. Sarkozy is in the Elysee Palace after he decided not to travel to Astana after being described as the "Emperor sans clothes".

- Independent