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Annan urges 'Group of 77' developing nations to build consensus

Annan urges 'Group of 77' developing nations to build consensus

As the chairmanship of a 133-naiton coalition of developing countries was formally handed over today from Iran to Venezuela, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan used the occasion to urge the so-called "Group of 77" to seek a common stand at key UN conferences in the year ahead.

"If you create a realistic platform for negotiations, tangible results can be obtained," Mr. Annan said, referring in part to the upcoming International Conference on Financing for Development, which he called "just the kind of conference the Group of 77 has sough for a long time."

"I encourage you to reach out, settle on achievable goals, and build consensus around them. This moment must not be squandered," the Secretary-General told a transfer ceremony at UN Headquarters in New York, which was attended by President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi of Iran.

With the global economy deteriorating, the Secretary-General noted that the developing countries were "being hit the hardest" while anti-poverty goals were becoming more difficult to attain. It was "all the more important," he stressed, to seize the opportunities offered by the conferences to be held in the year ahead.

Highlighting a number of milestone events of last year, including the launch of a new round of talks by the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the adoption of a New Partnership for African Development, Mr. Annan praised the Iranian team for its "great skill and determination as well as a strong commitment to international cooperation" in chairing the Group. He also wished the incoming chair, Venezuela, success in guiding the G-77 through "another challenging period."

Speaking at a press conference following the ceremony, President Chavez said his country was beginning the year with "a great deal of faith, strength and optimism" in assuming responsibility for chairing the Group of 77.