Annan: World leaders must move quickly on U.N. reforms, terrorism
UNITED NATIONS – Secretary-General Kofi Annan, armed with what he called the most significant blueprint for reform in the United Nations’ history, said Saturday the 191 member states should quickly create new human rights and peacebuilding machinery and address the growing risks of nuclear proliferation and “catastrophic terrorism.”While Annan sought to spur momentum for change after a three-day summit of world leaders, Iran’s new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, took the spotlight with a speech later Saturday in which he said Iran has the “inalienable right” to nuclear energy but offered foreign countries and companies a role in his nation’s uranium enrichment program.Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice diverged from her prepared remarks at the opening session of the General Assembly and omitted a reference to Iran as a “leading sponsor of terrorism.” But she still accused Iran of having “unilaterally walked away from” nuclear talks.Tension over Iran’s intentions was one of the biggest side events to the debate, which opened less than 12 hours after the summit closed. That event saw world leaders adopt a document committing them to an overhaul of the world body and efforts to fight poverty, human rights abuses and terrorism.Annan had wanted more, and many sweeping changes were gutted because of bitter diplomatic disputes.But Annan and several leaders defended the summit’s achievements, telling the General Assembly that leaders did more at one time than ever before in 60 years of U.N. history.”Now we turn to a new task: to implement what has been agreed, and keep working to bridge differences that remain,” Annan said, adding he would “speak plainly” if leaders fall behind. “And I have no doubt that global public opinion will keep a close eye on our progress.”For the first time, leaders accepted a collective international responsibility to protect people from genocide, war crimes and ethnic cleansing.They also agreed to establish a new Human Rights Council to replace the long-discredited Human Rights Commission, tainted because countries accused of rights abuses – including Cuba, Zimbabwe and Libya – have gained membership.In addition, Annan urged them to make good on the promise to set up a Peacebuilding Commission to help nations recover from war.”Let’s each do our part so that the Peacebuilding Commission can begin its work before the end of the year,” Annan said.Yet one of the summit document’s failures was that it never mentioned the issue of nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament because leaders could not agree on what to say.Annan had called that a disgrace, and on Saturday he said the world faces growing risks of “proliferation and catastrophic terrorism.”He urged nations to strengthen the three pillars of the nuclear arms control regime – nonproliferation, disarmament and peaceful uses.”The states are too high to continue down a dangerous path of diplomatic brinkmanship,” Annan said.Rice followed with a plea for world leaders to adopt a sweeping anti-terrorism convention and include a definition of terrorism that outlaws attacks targeting civilians. The absence of that definition of terrorism was one of the key failings of the summit document.”No cause, no movement and no grievance can justify the intentional killing of innocent civilians and noncombatants,” Rice said.Leaders praised the summit document as a first step toward bringing change to the United Nations and helping the world’s poor. But they acknowledged that some saw it the other way – as a document that made little difference to the rest of the world.”Who is right? The answer, I believe, is up to us,” said General Assembly President Jan Eliasson of Sweden. “The document should, as one speaker put it, be a beachhead of common ground from which we launch ourselves forward with urgency and common purpose.”The original thrust of the U.N. summit was to take action to implement goals set by world leaders at their last summit in 2000. Those include cutting poverty by half, ensuring universal primary education and stemming the AIDS pandemic, all by 2015.Jamaica’s Prime Minister P.J. Patterson, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries, echoed many leaders when he lamented that the world was nowhere near on track to meet the targets, called the Millennium Development Goals.”At the current pace, some regions and countries will miss several of the MDGs by decades,” Patterson said. “In certain areas, such as the elimination of hunger, we would be centuries away.”
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