The United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, today held talks in Washington, D.C., with President George Bush on a range of pressing issues and regional hotspots, including Afghanistan.
Meeting at the White House, the Secretary-General and President Bush reviewed humanitarian efforts in Afghanistan and progress on the political front as the Afghan parties meet in Bonn to try to reach a power-sharing arrangement, a UN spokesman said today. “The Secretary-General encouraged a more active sharing of information between the UN and the coalition forces on the ground in Afghanistan to increase the security for the international humanitarian aid effort,” spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva told reporters in New York.
Mr. Annan also urged President Bush to attend next year’s International Conference on Financing for Development to take place in Monterrey, Mexico. In addition, the two leaders discussed the recent World Trade Organization (WTO) meeting in Doha, Qatar, and the UN Conference on Sustainable Development set to take place in Johannesburg next year. Also present at that meeting were Secretary of State Colin Powell, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, UN Ambassador John Negroponte and White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card.
After the meeting, President Bush and the Secretary-General were joined by Catherine Bertini, Executive Director of the UN World Food Programme, Ruud Lubbers, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and Kenzo Oshima, the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator. “The Secretary-General and his three senior humanitarian officials briefed the President and his delegation on the UN’s humanitarian work in Afghanistan,” the spokesman said.
At a press encounter following that meeting, President Bush praised the work of the Secretary-General and what he called “his wonderful team” for their efforts to keep Afghans from starving. In response, Mr. Annan noted that the job was not always easy, while the food was getting into Afghanistan, secondary distribution to reach the needy was still a problem.
Among other appointments while in Washington, the Secretary-General met with World Bank President James Wolfensohn and International Monetary Fund Managing Director Horst Koehler. Also on the programme were meetings with congressional leaders from the US House of Representatives and the US Senate.
In addition, Mr. Annan addressed the American Academy of Diplomacy, which presented him with its Excellence in Diplomacy Award. While emphasizing the importance of diplomacy in solving international crises, the Secretary-General underscored the need for affected people to determine their future. He cited as an example the talks among Afghan factions under way in Bonn, noting that “it is the parties themselves who must break the cycle of misery and violence.”
On Tuesday evening in New York, the Secretary-General received the Stephen P. Duggan Award for International Understanding, from the Institute for International Education. Addressing those present, he stressed the need “to prevent intolerance from taking hold in the next generation,” and to ensure that the minds of young people remain open.