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Middle East, hot spots in Africa, Asia, among dominant issues in Assembly debate

Middle East, hot spots in Africa, Asia, among dominant issues in Assembly debate

With one day remaining in the annual high-level debate of the United Nations General Assembly, the world's hot spots in the Middle East, Africa and Asia, as well as the fight against terrorism, continued to figure prominently today in the speeches by high-level representatives addressing the UN's main legislative and deliberative body.

Opening the morning session, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Burkina Faso, said the international community should design the fight against terrorists in a way that does not provide them with allies. "The response to 11 September could lead to a catastrophic scenario for humanity - a conflict between Islam and Christianity or between East and West," Youssouf Ouedraogo warned. "The leaders of our day must attack the injustices that give rise to hate and conflict." The Minister also voiced his Government's support to the creation of an independent Palestinian State, to the lifting of sanctions against Cuba and Iraq, and to the proposal by Secretary-General Kofi Annan's envoy, James Baker, on Western Sahara, which he called "an acceptable political compromise." He also reaffirmed Africa's position that the Security Council should be reformed to ensure equitable representation for all regions of the world.

Also speaking about the injustices that lead to frustration in developing countries, N. Hassan Wirajuda, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Indonesia said the global economic environment was becoming less hospitable to the aspirations for growth in poor States. "Without the resources and technology for sustainable development, developing countries are rapidly losing their natural resources," he said, advocating massive direct investment flows to Indonesia, but acknowledging the difficulty in "making a good case for this" due to problems of corruption in the country's bureaucracies and corporate sector. "The deficiencies of our legal system and the judiciary, the past human rights record of our police and military establishment have produced less than optimum conditions for Indonesia's economic recovery," he said. Turning to the demands for separatism from Aceh and Iran Jaya, the Minister said his Government would introduce a special autonomy and a greater sharing of resources, but would not tolerate acts of terror for separatist ends against Indonesia's territorial integrity.

For Eduard Kukan, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Slovak Republic, the legal instruments devised in the UN were a good basis for increasing the effectiveness of the fight against terrorism. "The only thing that remains to be done is to implement all the good principles which are already laid down," he said, expressing hope that the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court would enter into force sometime next year. The Minister also stressed the importance of the UN's peacekeeping efforts in maintaining international security. On the reform of the Security Council, Mr. Kukan said the international community should "be honest in admitting that we have not been fully successful in achieving this goal for years, and now we will have to cope with new, unprecedented challenges." The Slovak Republic, he said, believed the Council should base its decision-making on majority voting, that the veto should only be reserved for decisions taken under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, and that one additional seat should be allocated to the Group of Eastern European States.

Concerning the Middle East, Shimon Peres, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Israel, said there was broad agreement that the creation of an independent Palestinian State - non-military and economically viable - was the best bet. "A Palestinian State - which enables the Palestinians to breathe freedom, to initiate a new economy, to maintain their traditions, and enjoy the highest level of education - will also provide for real security," he said. What endangered this new solution was terror, however. Every democracy must have a non-democratic institution to defend itself, Mr. Peres noted. Armies were non-democratic, but without them, democracy would not prevail. "The Palestinian Authority, which is a State in the making, must establish one authority over all arms, all armies and all use of arms," he said. "Not for the sake of Israel, but for the sake of peace and their own destiny, so that bullets will not negate ballots. As long as terror persists, Israel has no choice but to defend its people."

The Minister for Foreign Affairs of Uzbekistan, Abdulaziz Kamilov, told the Assembly that in rallying the international coalition against terrorism, the world community should not neglect another equally dangerous threat, drug trafficking, which was the main financial support for terrorist and extremist activities. In recent years, the countries of Central Asia have been finding themselves face-to-face with large-scale aggression unleashed by international narco-syndicates. "It is clear that no country, no matter how powerful, can expect to successfully confront drug trafficking, unless fully supported by the international community," he said.

Turning to development cooperation, S.R. Insanally, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Guyana, said it was clear the prevailing international system was "deeply flawed" and had failed to achieve its primary objective of increasing growth and improving the quality of life in poor countries. Many debt and poverty traps that continued to ensnare millions of the world's poorest people were inherent in the system. As envisioned by the late President Cheddi Jagan of Guyana, the proposal for a New Global Human Order acknowledged that the major constraints affecting economic and social progress in developing countries resided in capacity limitation in the critical areas of markets, administrative and institutional structures, the leveraging of resources and the ability of developing countries to negotiate as equal partners in a number of forums outside the UN. The proposal sought to make development cooperation programmes more effective, optimize scarce financial resources and reduce the spread of poverty.

Sule Lamido, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Nigeria, said it was regrettable that conflicts and wars continued to be waged, and that Africa had a disproportionate share of those conflicts. Yet the experiences in Liberia and Sierra Leone had shown that the United Nations, in close partnership with regional and subregional organizations, could facilitate the return to peace and security. As for the economic situation on the continent, many African countries - despite welcome initiatives on debt relief - had neither grown out of debt nor been able to service their debts in a sustainable manner. This warranted a bolder approach, he said, such as outright debt cancellation. Efforts to resolve the problem should also be bolstered by collective action to discourage illegal transfer of funds from developing countries and the repatriation of such funds to their countries of origin.

Foreign Minister Souef Mohamed El-Amine of Comoros said the process of national reconciliation in his country was making progress daily. A draft constitution to govern the future of Comoros, drafted with the participation of all the political parties and the support of the international community, was on its way to referendum. He said the government was sparing no effort to facilitate progress during the current transitional phase, and urgently appealed to the international community to continue providing its valuable support in this period of national reconciliation and reconstruction. Addressing the issue of the Comoran island of Mayotte, he said it was still a matter of concern. However, he remained optimistic about the willingness of the French authorities to cooperate with their Comoran counterparts.

João Bernardo de Miranda, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Angola, stressed the importance of addressing the extreme poverty in Africa. The UN must implement action plans and recommendations of the past decade on HIV/AIDS, social development, human rights, racial discrimination and terrorism. His country endorsed the use of force to eliminate terrorist cells and had helped develop an international diamond certification system, which helped prevent the financing of terrorist groups. A climate of peace was beginning to prevail in Angola, favourably affecting its economy, and reform efforts could make possible the holding of truly democratic general elections in the near future. However, sanctions against UNITA should be maintained until peace became irreversible. Also, the help of the international community was still needed in the effort to relieve poverty, to address the problem of displaced populations, and for national reconstruction.

Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail of the Sudan said his country condemned terrorism, which was not the province of any particular religion or ethnic group. He said the lifting of sanctions on his country would contribute to greater cooperation with the international community. It was time to end the unilateral economic measures imposed on certain countries, including his own. The Sudan would strive to support the activities of the UN in favour of humanity, including the eradication of poverty and rehabilitation of areas destroyed through war. His government would continue to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance to the victims of war. He added that measures should be taken to ensure that globalization would be a positive engine of progress for humanity at large and not lead to cultural and intellectual hegemony.

Yemen's Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, Abdullah Alsaidi, stressed that terrorism was not a new phenomenon and it had also affected his country. However, it had worsened due to negligence in addressing the problem. Yemen condemned all forms of terrorism, and it rejected attempts to link terrorism to Arabs or Muslims. Yemen also censured those voices proclaiming a clash of civilizations and called instead for dialogue on common human values. The elements of terrorism must be defined, he said. The Security Council should act to end the crimes committed daily by Israel against the Palestinian people. The imposition of international embargoes and sanctions, such as those under which the Iraqi people suffered, must be reconsidered. Sanctions which had been overtaken by events must be reviewed.

Statements in the morning session were also made by the representatives of Singapore and Kazakhstan.