U.N. members still divided on key issues in final document for U.N. summit
UNITED NATIONS – With next week’s U.N. summit looming, Secretary-General Kofi Annan warned the world’s nations Monday that they have just a few days to salvage “a once in a generation opportunity” to fight poverty and overhaul the United Nations.He said in a British Broadcasting Corp. interview it was “unfortunate” that the United States waited until just last month to propose hundreds of amendments to a final document for world leaders to consider adopting. Annan said it opened “the floodgates” to other amendments and changed the dyanmics of the negotiations.U.S. Ambassador John Bolton has said Washington had been making similar proposals since June to General Assembly President Jean Ping, who has been overseeing the document’s preparation.Ping was putting together a new draft with changes agreed upon over a week of negotiations and the outstanding issues – many of them key – ahead of the Sept. 14-16 summit, expected to draw 175 world leaders.Annan told the BBC that he will be able to judge by late Wednesday if there is a risk of failure.”I think we have a couple of days in which to salvage this process. But to do that, it requires a maturity and leadership and appreciation of what we are trying to do,” he said. “I think this is a once in a generation opportunity that we have to do this.”Among the issues: a Human Rights Council with more authority to replace the discredited Human Rights Commission; a Peacebuilding Commission to help nations emerging from conflict; new responsibility for governments to protect civilians facing genocide and war crimes; disarmament and nonproliferation; overhauling U.N. management; and steps to fight poverty.Developing countries – who comprise the majority of member states – say their top priority is action to improve the lives of their citizens and meet U.N.-sponsored goals that include cutting extreme poverty by half, ensuring universal primary education, and stemming the AIDS pandemic, all by 2015.In the upcoming final negotiations, Pakistan’s U.N. Ambassador Munir Akram said “what happens in the development section … will influence positions on other parts of the document.”The United States has been widely criticized for seeking to eliminate references to the goals.The proposed U.S. changes would also delete a call for rich nations to spend 0.7 percent of GNP on development aid. President Bush has almost doubled international assistance, but the United States still spent just 0.16 percent of GNP on development aid in 2004, according to a recent U.N. report.The United States and an overwhelming majority of countries support a new Human Rights Council, although human rights organizations say about 15 countries – led by Cuba – were blocking changes.Of all the issues, there is probably the greatest support for a new commission to take over after U.N. peacekeepers leave a conflict area.Egypt’s U.N. Ambassador Maged Abdelaziz said there is also broad support for a comprehensive convention against terrorism.Vail, Colorado
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