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Vigorous response to terror needed, Annan tells General Assembly

Vigorous response to terror needed, Annan tells General Assembly

Secretary-General Kofi Annan
On the day that should have seen the opening of the annual high-level debate in the United Nations General Assembly, Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the UN's principal legislative body today that the terrorist attacks against the United States were also a strike against everything the UN stood for.

"Peace, freedom, tolerance, human rights and the very idea of a united human family," Mr. Annan said as he presented to the Assembly his annual Report on the Work of the Organization. "It struck at all our efforts to create a true international society, based on the rule of law."

"Let us respond by reaffirming, with all our strength, our common humanity and the values that we share," he said at the outset of the debate, in which representatives of over 60 countries were expected to address the Assembly. "We shall not allow them to be overthrown."

The Secretary-General noted the need for a vigorous response to terrorism, which the General Assembly will address in greater detail on 1 October. He also underscored the need to reaffirm the rule of law: "No effort should be spared in bringing the perpetrators to justice, in a clear and transparent process that all can understand and accept."

Mr. Annan warned, however, that responding to the attacks should not distract from the rest of the UN's work and that rather than resorting to violence, cooperation and partnership was the only route that offers any hope of a better future for all of humanity, with the United Nations squarely in the centre of any such efforts.

"The United Nations must provide a framework of shared values and understanding, within which their free and voluntary efforts can interact, and reinforce each other, instead of getting in each other's way," Mr. Annan said.

The Secretary-General called for a strengthening of the international trade system to ensure that its benefits were available to all, especially the developing countries. He also encouraged the Assembly not to see the attacks as setbacks to pledges made in last year's Millennium Declaration on reducing the number of people who live on less than $1 a day, ensuring universal primary education for all children, or halting and beginning the reversal of the spread of HIV/AIDS.

"Let us reject the path of violence, which is the product of nihilism and despair," Mr. Annan said. "Let us prove by our actions that there is no need to despair; that the political and economic problems of our time can be solved peacefully; and that no human life should be sacrificed, because every human being has cause to hope."

With representatives of over 60 countries inscribed to address the Assembly on the Secretary-General's report, the debate is expected to continue on Tuesday.