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Peace in Africa, Middle East take centre stage at UN Assembly debate

Peace in Africa, Middle East take centre stage at UN Assembly debate

DRC President Joseph Kabila at UN Assembly
Peace prospects in Africa and the Middle East, as well as economic and environmental concerns took centre stage as the United Nations General Assembly continue its general debate today.

Joseph Kabila, President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo(DRC), told the Assembly that in the month since his country had entered into agreement with Rwanda and Uganda on the withdrawal of their forces from the DRC, there was little evidence that they were being implemented on the ground. Implementation of those accords would significantly enhance and solidify his country's efforts to create an economically and socially enabling environment and elaborate a comprehensive peace agreement, with the objective of promptly holding free, democratic and transparent elections.

President Kabila also drew the Assembly's attention to the "disturbing" humanitarian crisis in the eastern portion of his country, particularly the vicious fighting in Kisangani, Bunia and Kivu, where the rape and plundering of the country's precious natural resources was continuing unchecked. He appealed to the international community to put an end to the tragedies occurring in that region and to ensure that the perpetrators of those crimes were brought to justice. Almost constant fighting had exacerbated the bleak picture of the DRC over the past four years, which had depleted the Government of over half its resources.

To put an end to the tragic situation in the DRC, he appealed to the international community to become more deeply involved in finding solutions that could bring peace to the country and the entire Great Lakes region. He suggested that the UN organize an international conference on peace, reconciliation and development in the Great Lakes region. His country believed deeply in the universal values of the UN, and he urged the Organization to use all its mechanisms to silence weapons and make peace a genuine right within the grasp of all.

In his address, President Levy P. Mwanawasa of Zambia noted that since the death last year of Jonas Savimbi, the former rebel leader of the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), the opportunity for further implementation of the Lusaka Protocol had been made possible. Full implementation of that agreement was necessary for the reintegration of Angola in the southern African economy and the promotion of regional peace and stability. Other gratifying developments included the measures undertaken by the Security Council to strengthen the UN Observer Mission in the DRC (MONUC), and the significant reduction in the number of foreign troops still in that country.

Turning to development, President Mwanawasa acknowledged the efforts made by Africa to refine its partnerships with the rest of the world, as embodied by the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD). He also noted the positive attention given by the G-8 countries to the request that half of their projected foreign aid increases be earmarked for Africa and the initiative by the United States to refine the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act. The past year had seen practical and positive developments in African trade liberalization initiatives.

Prince Ulukalala Lavaka Ata, Prime Minister of Tonga, said that as a developing ocean State, his country was encouraged by the commitments in the Plan of Implementation on fish stocks and fishing practices adopted by the recent World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa. Implementing those commitments required responsibility and good faith from all parties to ensure that States like his obtained their fair share of the ocean's vast and bountiful resources. He said he was also pleased at the entry into force of the UN fish stocks agreement and urged other Member States to join that important pact.

Prince Ata noted that the region had further endorsed a first-ever regional oceans policy that elaborated some guiding principles that should serve as a template for countries like Tonga to consider developing national ocean policies. Tonga also continued to support the development of an appropriate environmental vulnerability index for small island developing States and commended the continuing work of the South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission in that regard.

Foreign Minister Kassymzhomart K. Tokaev of Kazakhstan said it was becoming more evident that terrorists must be prevented from obtaining weapons of mass destruction. As one of the few States in the world that had voluntarily relinquished its nuclear heritage, Kazakhstan believed that a prerequisite for an atmosphere of trust was the early entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty. His country was also interested in the signing, as soon as possible, of a treaty creating a nuclear-weapons-free zone in Central Asia. Furthermore, the excessive accumulation of and illegal trafficking in small arms was no less important. Kazakhstan country offered to host an international conference on the subject next year.

Jack Straw, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs of the United Kingdom, said that no country had deceived the world as systematically as Iraq had, and no country presented as fundamental a challenge to the UN. Those who believed in an active international community could not stand by and do nothing while Iraq defied the United Nations. "We have spent 57 years building this Organization beyond shop talk, and we cannot let that be undone," he said, calling for Iraq to re-admit inspectors with unfettered access. "We must be clear to Iraq and to ourselves about the consequences which would flow from its failure to meet its obligations."

Romania's Foreign Minister, Mircea Geoana, said the terrorist threat called for more vigilance in controlling the use and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, as well as conventional weapons such as landmines and small arms which could fall into the wrong hands. He called on Iraq to comply with existing Security Council resolutions and to allow the immediate and unconditional return of UN inspectors. A strong Council response to Iraq's long-term defiance was called for because of the threat to global security from weapons of mass destruction. The temptation to apply those principles to other, localized conflicts should be resisted, especially when mechanisms existed for dialogue and peaceful resolution.

Felipe Perez Roque, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Cuba, said that a new war against Iraq already seemed inevitable, and that the buzzword was "pre-emptive war," which was in open violation of the spirit and letter of the UN Charter. Cuba opposed new military action against Iraq. The international community was increasingly concerned about the announcement of a new war on the basis of unconfirmed allegations and disregard for the obvious reality that Iraq could not pose a danger to the United States. If the United States unleashed a new war against Iraq, the world would bear witness to the emergence of a century of unilateralism and the forced retirement of the United Nations.

Foreign Minister Yousef Bin Alawi Bin Abdullah of Oman warned that the Middle East was passing through a "perturbed" stage of tension due to the serious regression of the peace process, particularly on the Israeli-Palestinian track. All Arab countries continuously affirmed the achievement of peace based on principles of international law and justice, as a strategic choice, and had exerted great efforts in that regard, he said, with the latest effort the Arab peace initiative unanimously adopted during the Beirut Summit in March. Meanwhile, the humanitarian situation in Iraq remained tragic due to the ongoing economic sanctions. The Security Council should review its international sanction policy and consider events on the ground in order to put an end to the human suffering in Iraq. He called for the continuation of dialogue between Iraq and the United Nations aimed at fulfilling Baghdad's remaining international commitments.

Also addressing the Assembly this morning were Foreign Ministers Joschka Fischer of Germany, Erkki Tuomioja of Finland, Rabbie Namaliu of Papua New Guinea and Abubakr Al-Qirbi of Yemen.