Opening annual session, General Assembly condemns terror attacks against US
In the first resolution of its fifty-sixth session, the Assembly strongly condemned "the heinous acts of terrorism which have caused enormous loss of human life, destruction and damage in the cities of New York - host city of the United Nations - Washington, D.C. and elsewhere."
The Assembly stressed that "those responsible for aiding supporting or harbouring the perpetrators, organizers and sponsors of such acts will be held accountable." It also expressed its solidarity with the people and Government of the United States "in these sad and tragic circumstances."
Addressing the Assembly session, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan called this "a dark day for the United States, and indeed for the whole world."
"Our host country, and this wonderful host city that has been so good to us over the five decades have just been subjected to a terrorist attack such as we had hardly dared to imagine even in our worst nightmares," said Mr. Annan. He added that it was difficult to find words to express "our sense of grief and outrage, our profound sympathy for the untold numbers of injured and bereaved, and our solidarity" with the people and the Government of the United States.
Mr. Annan stressed that all nations of the world must be united in their solidarity with the victims of terrorism, as well as in their determination to take action, both against the terrorists themselves and against all those who give them any kind of shelter, assistance or encouragement.
For his part, Ambassador James Cunningham of the United States expressed gratitude to those who had extended sympathy to his country, and offered particular thanks to the Secretary-General for urging a firm and united response to the tragedy. "I appreciate the support and condolences expressed by the UN membership, and the condemnation and their sense of resolve," he said. "Together, we've demonstrated - here today in the historic hall of the General Assembly - that we are united and strong in the face of terror."
Following the adoption of the resolution, the representative of Azerbaijan called for the UN to establish a blood donation centre for diplomats. "We, the United Nations diplomatic community, are not only parking rule violators - we do love this city, we love New York, and we want to help it." He requested the Secretary-General to use the UN Medical Service to organize a blood donation so that diplomats could make "our modest contribution to the ongoing New York City rescue process."
The proposal was met by a round of applause, after which Mr. Annan observed, "I think you have had a very good response from the ambassadors and delegates here, and that means that the Medical Service will have no problems, and we will see lots of people queuing up to give blood."
Earlier this afternoon, the General Assembly elected Han Seung-soo, the Foreign Minister of the Republic of Korea, as President of its fifty-sixth session. The newly elected President joined others in voicing his disgust and outrage at Tuesday's terrorist attacks. He recalled that the UN had been born amid hopes for a lasting peace in the wake of two world wars and expressed his commitment to strengthen the Assembly's role in that effort.
At a news conference following the meeting, the President pledged to meet the challenges facing the Assembly in such areas as peacekeeping, development, curbing the spread of AIDS, and promoting human rights. "This is an ambitious agenda, but not an unrealistic one," he said.
Asked whether the General Assembly's annual general debate - which normally attracts the participation of heads of State and government and other senior officials from around the world - should be postponed under the circumstances, Mr. Seung-soo replied: "I think the general debate will not be postponed, but we do not know how many heads of State will participate in the debate now that the situation has much changed after the terrorist acts yesterday."