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Leaders stress UN's central role in efforts to promote safer, more prosperous world

Leaders stress UN's central role in efforts to promote safer, more prosperous world

UN Assembly meets in general debate
World leaders addressing the United Nations General Assembly today stressed the central role of the UN in the international community's efforts to promote a safer and more prosperous world.

President Abdelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria spoke out against the scourge of terrorism, saying that the time had arrived for the adoption of a global treaty to combat the menace. He cautioned, however, against equating terrorism with the legitimate struggle of people for self-determination, such as the situation of the Palestinian people. Peace would only come to the Middle East, he said, when a State of Palestine was established and Israel left occupied Arab territories. As a contribution to the peace process in the region, he also welcomed the decision by Iraq to allow UN inspectors to return there.

In looking at the importance of globalization, the President said the right to development had to be the main concern of all, and called for solving problems of foreign debt and access to global markets which affect countries of the South. Firmer political will from the international community is essential, he stressed.

"The changes occurring at unprecedented speed in the world bear to a large extent uncertainties about the future of mankind," President Bouteflika said. "To face theses dangers, a clear tendency towards international solidarity has taken shape, not only in combating terrorism, but also in fighting poverty and preserving our environment. The major role of the UN is now obvious as regards the settlement of the problems encountered by all our peoples. In an endangered world, the UN has proved to be irreplaceable as it is the symbol of our common commitment to struggling for mankind's survival."

Jose Maria Pereira Neves, the Prime Minister of Cape Verde, said that a safer world was a more just world. It was crucial that the United Nations reinforced its intervention and coordination capacity to promote economic and social development as guarantee for a global climate of peace and security. This would be impossible while more than half of the world's population was still subject to poverty, malnutrition, diseases and ignorance. The international community had to become more committed in order to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and give meaning to the lives of millions, especially those in the least developed countries (LDCs).

Prime Minister Neves said that many of those countries had implemented at great expense the deep reforms required by their bilateral partners and international financial institutions. Regretfully, in many cases, instead of getting increased support to consolidate reforms, those nations were being devastated by debt burdens, while official development assistance was being gradually reduced and access to foreign private investment remained elusive. The financial commitments announced at UN conferences this year were vitally important for achieving the Millennium Goals. Those decisions must now be implemented.

Tuila'epa Sailele Malielegaoi, the Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Samoa, welcomed the news of the Iraqi decision yesterday to allow UN weapons inspectors back into the country and voiced hope that this would lead to the positive and final resolution of the matter. Iraq had remained in violation of Security Council resolutions for "far too long," he said, commending the repeated efforts of Secretary-General Kofi Annan to encourage Iraqi compliance. "We think there must be full compliance with obligations under Security Council resolutions without preconditions, without delay," he stressed.

The Prime Minister also called for the implementation of Security Council resolutions 242, 338 and 1397 on the Middle East, saying they provided the basis for settlement of the conflict there. Calling particular attention to the need to reform the Security Council, he said that although the issue was "sensitive," it was also clear that the Council needed to reflect the geo-political realities of the times by properly representing the international community of today.

Foreign Minister Halldor Asgrimsson of Iceland said that in order to continue the fight against terrorism, which had dominated the international arena for the past year, it was essential for countries to ratify and implement all the relevant legal instruments and to conclude the draft comprehensive convention against terrorism. In regard to Iraq, it was imperative that all relevant Security Council resolutions were fully implemented. The decision of the Iraqi Government, announced yesterday, to cooperate with the UN and to give weapons inspectors unconditional access was encouraging, but real action must follow. Concerning the Middle East, the Foreign Minister said that only a comprehensive peace agreement, dealing with all aspects of the dispute, would guarantee security and prosperity for both Israelis and Palestinians.

Tonino Picula, the Foreign Minister of Croatia, said that the UN should continue to keep development at the forefront of its work. The international community must work together to improve the lives of people in poverty and to reverse the continuing degradation of the global environment. A true global mobilization of all relevant stakeholders would be necessary to ensure that the outcomes of recent conferences were transformed into reality. Despite progress made on issues with Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Foreign Minister expressed Croatia's deep frustration with the continued failure to apprehend two of the most notorious war criminals - Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic. Lasting stability in Bosnia and Herzegovina might only be achieved with the arrest and extradition of those two criminals to the appropriate authorities. Bringing those two to trial before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia would serve as closure for many victims that suffered terribly.

Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai of Thailand took note of Iraq's decision yesterday to allow UN inspectors to return to the country but urged Baghdad to implement Security Council resolutions unconditionally and unreservedly. In other security matters, Thailand had become involved in the peace process in Sri Lanka and hoped to facilitate dialogue between the government of that country and the representatives of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. The Foreign Minister also said that Thailand had committed itself to combating the spread of HIV/AIDS. At the 15th International Conference on HIV/AIDS to be hosted in Thailand in 2004, the country would share its experiences in dealing with that disease.

Argentina's Minister for Foreign Affairs, Carlos Ruckauf, said his country was leaving behind an exceptionally deep crisis. It would continue to participate actively in multilateral negotiations within the framework of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and would implement a new trade policy aimed at giving the Argentine economy a clear export profile. Only through the generation of genuine foreign earnings, resulting from trade, would Argentina achieve sustained economic growth, and repay its debts. To ensure prosperity, it was necessary to ensure that the initiatives developed at this year's UN conference on development financing in Monterrey were actually implemented.

Also addressing the Assembly were Foreign Ministers Lyonpo Jigmi Y. Thinley of Bhutan, Ana Palacio of Spain, Mikhail Khvostov of Belarus and Dah Ould Abdi of Mauritania. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, chairman of the delegation from Qatar, also spoke.