20 September 2006

Divisions over Unjust World Economy, Contempt for Human Rights Threaten Notion of International Community, Secretary-General Warns in Opening General Debate

World Leaders Call Attention to Questions of Extremism, Intractable Conflict, United Nations Reform, Extreme Poverty, Inequality

NEW YORK, 19 September (UN Headquarters) -- In his final address to world leaders as head of the United Nations, Secretary-General Kofi Annan appealed today for true unity among nations and peoples, so as to overcome divisions that threatened the very notion of an international community.

He painted a troubling picture of an unjust world economy, global disorder and widespread contempt for human rights, as he spoke amid sustained applause that culminated in a standing ovation.  Mr. Annan, who ends his 10 years in office on 31 December, said that, though there had been some improvements in living standards and security, as well as a drop in global conflicts since his first address to the General Assembly in 1997, the events of the past decade had not resolved, but rather sharpened, the three great challenges of security, development, and human rights and the rule of law.

"Every day, reports reach us of new laws broken, of new bestial crimes to which individuals and minority groups are subjected", he said.  Citing hot-button issues such as climate change, HIV/AIDS, fair trade and migration, he said most of the world's problems had acquired a global dimension that could be matched only by "global action, agreed and coordinated through this most universal of institutions …I remain convinced that the only answer to this divided world must be a truly United Nations."

Reflecting on his decade as Secretary-General, he said: "It's been difficult and challenging, but at times also thrillingly rewarding.  And, while I look forward to resting my shoulders from those stubborn rocks in the next phase of my life, I know I shall miss the mountain.  Yes, I shall miss what is -- when all is said and done -- the world's most exalting job."

George W. Bush, President of the United States, said it was clear at the start of the twenty-first century that the world was engaged in a great ideological struggle, between extremists who used terror as a weapon to create fear, and moderate people who worked for peace.  The principles of a world beyond terror could be found in the very first sentence of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which stated that the "equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom and justice and peace in the world".

In a message directed at people across the Middle East, he said: "My country desires peace.  Extremists in your midst spread propaganda claiming that the West is engaged in a war against Islam.  This propaganda is false …We respect Islam, but we will protect our people from those who pervert Islam to sow death and destruction."

Regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he said he had directed Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to lead a diplomatic effort aimed at getting Israel and the Palestinians to resolve their differences.  To the Lebanese people, he said: "We see your suffering, and the world is helping you to rebuild your country, and helping you deal with the armed extremists who are undermining your democracy by acting as a 'State within a State'."

He told Iranians that their greatest obstacle was that their rulers had chosen to deny them liberty and to use their nation's resources to fund terrorism, fuel extremism and pursue nuclear weapons.  Looking beyond the Middle East, the United States called on the General Assembly to move quickly to get peacekeepers into Sudan's Darfur region, where lives, as well as the credibility of the United Nations, were at stake.

Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad, President of Iran, drew attention to an increasing lack of respect for the rights of members of the international community.  While Iran was a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and committed to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT), some Governments that objected to the exercise of the legal and supervised exercise of its nuclear rights were themselves abusers of nuclear technology for non-peaceful ends, including the production of nuclear bombs.

Some had a bleak record of having used such weapons against humanity, he said.  Abuse of the Security Council as "an instrument of threat and coercion" was a grave concern and, regrettably, justice had become a victim of force and aggression.  Global arrangements had become unjust, discriminatory and irresponsible.  Threats with instruments of war had replaced respect for the rights of nations, while, for some nations, claims to be promoting human rights and democracy lasted only as long as they could be used as instruments of pressure and intimidation against others.

He said nations were unequal in exercising rights recognized by international law.  The Security Council was used to ensure the rights of some big Powers, while remaining aloof when the oppressed were decimated.  Certain Powers equated themselves with the international community and considered their decisions as superseding those of 180 others.

The persistence of some hegemonic Powers in imposing their exclusionist policies on international decision-making mechanisms had created mistrust among the global public, he said.  The credibility and effectiveness of the most universal system of collective security had been undermined, and the Security Council's structure and working methods must be reformed.  In the interim, the Non-Aligned Movement, the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the African continent should each be represented on the Council by a permanent veto-wielding member.

Echoing that call for Security Council reform, Omer Hasan Al-Bashir, President of the Sudan, said certain parties were undermining reconciliation in his country's western Darfur region by sending "negative signals" to those groups that had not signed the Darfur Peace Agreement last May.  However, peace could not be real or sustainable without peace in Darfur.  With that in mind, he thanked the African Union for sparing no efforts to bring all the parties together, and praised the African Union Mission in the Sudan for its pioneering experiment in Darfur, which was a shining example of what regional organizations could accomplish on their own.

The African Union also deserved praise for carrying out its duties in the face of pressure from hegemonic Powers with designs of their own, he said, while decrying Security Council resolution 1706 (2006), which obviously served the Council's ends of effectively putting the Sudan under the trusteeship of certain of its members.  The Sudan refused all dictates and all attempts to manipulate its will.  It also rejected all underhanded attempts at recolonization.  Attempts to impose new international peacekeeping troops on the Sudan, without consultation and without taking the country's special circumstances into consideration, were reprehensible.

Jacques Chirac, President of France, voiced dismay over the fact that the conflict in the Middle East had become "the epicentre of global instability".  It was time to "tread off the beaten track of habit" and devise a global strategy for an Israeli-Palestinian settlement.  "The status quo has become unbearable.  Because the conflict in the Middle East is a threat to global peace and security, the world has no option but to be the guarantor of peace", he said, adding it was time for leaders to take the issue out of the hands of extremists on both sides and work to restore confidence between Israelis and Palestinians.

He called on the diplomatic Quartet -- the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and the Russian Federation -- to prepare an international conference that would pave the way for a new future in the Middle East.  Regarding Lebanon, he praised Security Council resolution 1701 (2006), which had ended the conflict between Israel and Hizbollah, and said it was vital that all parties fulfil their commitments, especially given that "the fire is still smouldering".  France called on Israel to complete the withdrawal of its forces from Lebanon, on the Lebanese Government to assert its sovereignty across its territory, and on all countries of the region to cooperate fully to ensure the resolution's success.

While the situation in the Middle East was on the minds of many taking the floor, Thabo Mbeki, President of South Africa, was among the first to strongly echo the Secretary-General's concern about the lagging growth and protracted conflicts that had hamstrung wide-scale development for many countries, particularly those of Africa.  He urged the United Nations to live up to the promises of an "African century" and implement measures to help lift the continent's people out of poverty.

"Those who populate the poorest part of the regions of the world -- Africa -- have boldly declared that it will be an African century", he said, speaking on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China.  "If the wishes of the majority of the world could turn into reality, this would be a century free of wars, free of internecine conflicts, free of hunger, free of preventable disease, free of want, free of environmental degradation and free of greed and corruption."

But he warned against empty promises, noting that billions of poor people were becoming increasingly impatient because, every year, declaration after declaration was adopted and, yet, nothing practical was done to assuage the hunger pains that kept them awake at night.  Decrying the inequalities prevailing in the world and the indifferent response of rich countries, he said, "Something is seriously wrong when people risk life and limb travelling in suffocating containers to Western Europe in search of a better life …Something is wrong when walls are built to prevent poor neighbours from entering those countries where they seek better opportunities."

Tarja Halonen, President of Finland, speaking on behalf of the European Union, agreed that Member States must fulfil their common commitments to the global partnership for development and help achieve the Millennium Goals.  Every country had the primary right and responsibility for its own development.  The social dimension of globalization, including the importance of decent work for all, deserved special attention in the work of the United Nations, as it contributed to the social and political stability of countries and regions.

She said sub-Saharan Africa was not on track to reach the Millennium Goals by 2015 and, for that reason, the European Union had decided to give 50 per cent of its increase in aid to Africa.  Other donors were urged to join the Union in implementing the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness.  The international community must also deliver real gains to poor countries on trade, and the negotiations of the Doha development agenda must resume.  In addition, the European Union urged the quick implementation of the "aid for trade" commitments of December 2005.

The European Union wished to see the United Nations function more effectively, transparently and accountably, she said.  Reform of the main bodies was needed, as was management reform and mandate review.  Besides the reform agenda, there were many other important issues to be examined and resolved, among them the challenging negotiations on the scales of assessment.  The European Union also attached great importance to rapid implementation of the Capital Master Plan.

In her opening remarks, Assembly President Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa of Bahrain urged the world leaders to focus on translating commitments into action that would make a tangible difference in the lives of their people.  "We live in a world afflicted by violent armed conflicts, hunger and disease; a world threatened by international terrorism, organized crime and the proliferation of all types of weapons; a world brought closer together by the forces of globalization, yet divided by ethnic strife, and a growing technological gap."

She stressed that the international community had a moral duty to reach collective solutions to resolve those mutual concerns.  Noting that the theme of this year's general debate was "Implementing a Global Partnership for Development", she called for attention to "practical measures and strategies, which can enable us to make consistent progress and build on previous international and national efforts".  Greater United Nations involvement was needed in tackling security problems and in taking a more proactive role when addressing the many armed conflicts within and among States.

Also speaking today were the Presidents of Brazil, Pakistan, Poland, Congo, Mexico, Liberia, Ghana, Switzerland, Honduras, Cyprus, Costa Rica, Latvia, El Salvador, Suriname, Bolivia and Paraguay.

Other speakers included the King of Jordan, the Prime Minister of Norway and the Vice-President of Kiribati.

The General Assembly will reconvene the high-level segment of its general debate tomorrow at 10 a.m.


The General Assembly met this morning to open the high-level segment of its sixty-first session.

Before the Assembly was the Secretary-General's report on the work of the Organization (document A/61/1), his tenth and final annual report incorporating the previously separate report on progress in implementing the Millennium Declaration.  He said four main sections covered development; peace and security; human rights, the rule of law and humanitarian affairs; and strengthening of the Organization.  In addition, this year, a section on global constituencies is added to reflect the reality that globalization has ushered in an era in which international relations are no longer almost exclusively about relations between nation-States but also about so-called non-State actors who now form new global constituencies and call on the Organization, which is having to learn to work with business and civil society, to encourage partnerships to promote desirable changes and deliver growth, security and services in the field.  And while nation-States are no longer the sole players in international relations, they are still the most important and face collective challenges no single State can address alone.

He said the role of the State as regulator of economic activity and mediator between interest groups becomes more important as society becomes complex.  The United Nations was conceived as an Organization to preserve the peace between States but most conflicts in recent years begin within States and quickly spread to threaten the peace in whole regions, if not the world.  The security of Member States is now inseparable from that of their populations, which is why Heads of State at last year's Summit affirmed the responsibility of States to protect their populations from actions such as genocide and that of the international community to take action through the Security Council when peaceful means are inadequate and national authorities manifestly fail to act.

States are now servants of human beings and not the other way around, he said, which is why the Organization's three cardinal purposes of development, security and human rights are so indissolubly interconnected.  To develop and prosper, human beings must be able to look to the State for security, protection and the exercise of individual rights in all areas under the rule of law, including the rights to freedom from fear and hunger.

Concluding, he said the United Nations has suffered a loss of innocence in recent years with regard to carrying out its mandate.  But the commitment to advancing development, security and human rights must not change, which is why the strengthening of the United Nations is no mere bookkeeping exercise.  It is an imperative that directly concerns the interests of Member States and should engage their urgent interest.

He said the themes of good governance and accountability run through the report "like golden threads".  Member States need to be well governed and accountable to their citizens if they are to nourish economic and social development, achieve lasting security and uphold human rights under the rule of law.  The Organization will become stronger and more effective only if it is better managed and more clearly accountable to States.  In the same way, ensuring good governance and accountability at the global level is not simply a matter of improving the efficiency of the United Nations but going beyond that to ensure that governors are responsible to the governed and that world Powers remember their responsibilities.  This implies that all global institutions must be transformed into an effective expression of an emerging global community underpinned by shared values, held together by solidarity and inspired by mutual respect and understanding among all cultures and traditions.


In his final address to the Assembly as Secretary-General of the United Nations, KOFI ANNAN said that, when he had first addressed the body in 1997, it seemed that humanity faced three great challenges: to ensure that globalization would benefit the entire human race; to heal the disorder of the post-Cold War world, replacing it with a genuinely new world order of peace and freedom; and to protect the rights and dignity of individuals, particularly women, which were so widely trampled underfoot.  As the second African Secretary-General, he felt that all three of those challenges -- security, development, human rights and the rule of law -- concerned him directly.

Africa was in great danger of being excluded from the benefits of globalization, indeed, being left to rot on the margins of the world economy, he said, adding: " Africa was also the scene of some of the most protracted and brutal conflicts."  Many of Africa's people felt they were unjustly condemned to be exploited and oppressed, generation after generation, since colonial rule had been replaced by an inequitable economic order on the global level, and sometimes by corrupt rulers and warlords at the local level.  "In the decade since then, many people have been struggling to confront these three global challenges.  Much has been achieved, but events have also presented us with new challenges -- or rather, given the old ones new forms or a sharper bite."

In the economic arena, he said that both globalization and growth had continued apace.  Some developing countries, notably in Asia, had played a major role in that growth.  Many millions of their people had thereby been released from the prison of perpetual poverty.  Meanwhile, at the level of development policy, the debate had advanced, moving from rival models to agreed targets, he said, adding that the world now also recognized HIV/AIDS as a major development challenge, and had begun to confront it.  "I am proud of the role the United Nations has played in this.  Development, and the Millennium Development Goals, now take pride of place in all our work", he said.  "But let's not delude ourselves.  The Asian miracle is yet to be replicated in other parts of the world.  And even within the most dynamic Asian countries, its benefits are far from equally shared."

By the same token, the Millennium Goals were unlikely to be achieved everywhere by 2015, he said, acknowledging that, in many developing countries there was now a much better understanding of what good governance was, and why it was important.  But many still fell short of it in practice.  "True, there is progress on debt relief, as well as encouraging promises on aid and investment.  But the 'global partnership for development' is still more phrase than fact -- especially in the all-important area of trade", he said.

"My friends, globalization is not a tide that lifts all boats", he said, adding that globalization, which in theory brings us all closer together, in practice, risks driving us further apart".

"Are we any more secure against the second challenge -- the ravages of war?" he asked, noting that, again, some statistics would tell us so.  There were fewer inter-State conflicts than there used to be; and many civil wars had ended.  Here, too, Mr. Annan said he was proud of the United Nations' role, and was proud of what his fellow Africans had achieved in ending many of the conflicts that disfigured that continent.

"In far too many parts of the world -- especially the developing world -- people were still exposed to brutal conflicts, fought with small but deadly weapons", he said.  And people in all parts of the world were threatened by the spread of weapons of mass destruction.  It was shameful that last year's Summit Outcome did not contain even one word about non-proliferation and disarmament -- basically because States could not agree which of the two should be given priority.  "It is high time to end this dispute, and tackle both tasks with the urgency they demand", he said.

Moreover, just as some who benefited from globalization might feel threatened by it, many who were statistically safer from conflict did not feel safe.  "For that, we have terrorism to thank. It kills and maims relatively few people, compared to other forms of violence and conflict.  But it spreads fear and insecurity.  And that, in turn, drives people to huddle together with those who share their beliefs or their way of life, while shunning those who appear 'alien'", he said.

Thus, at the very time when international migration had brought millions of people of different creed or culture to live as fellow citizens, the misconceptions and stereotypes underlying the idea of a "clash of civilizations" had come to be more and more widely shared; and insensitivity towards other people's beliefs or sacred symbols -- intentional or otherwise -- was seized upon by those who seemed eager to foment a new war of religion on a global scale.

"Moreover, this climate of fear and suspicion is constantly refuelled by the violence in the Middle East", he said, adding: "We might like to think of the Arab-Israeli conflict as just one regional conflict amongst many.  But it is not.  No other conflict carries such a powerful symbolic and emotional charge among people far removed from the battlefield."

As long as the Palestinians lived under occupation, exposed to daily frustration and humiliation; and as long as Israelis were blown up in buses and in dance halls: so long would passions everywhere be inflamed, he said.

On one side, supporters of Israel felt that it was harshly judged, by standards that were not applied to its enemies -- and too often this was true, particularly in some United Nations bodies, he said.  "On the other side, people are outraged by the disproportionate use of force against the Palestinians, and by Israel's continued occupation and confiscation of Arab land."

As long as the Security Council was unable to end that conflict, and the nearly 40-year-old occupation, by bringing both sides to accept and implement its resolutions, so long would respect for the United Nations continue to decline, he continued.  "So long, too, would our impartiality be questioned.  So long will our best efforts to resolve other conflicts be resisted, including those in Iraq and Afghanistan, whose peoples need our help just as badly, and are entitled to it", he said.

"And so long will our devoted and courageous staff, instead of being protected by the blue flag, find themselves exposed to rage and violence, provoked by policies they neither control nor support", he added.

He went on to say that, on the third great challenge facing humanity -- the challenge of the rule of law, and the rights and dignity of human beings -- there had been significant progress.  More rights had been enshrined in international treaties, and the Assembly was now about to codify the rights of a group who particularly needed it -- those suffering from disabilities.  Also, more Governments today were elected by, and were accountable to, those whom they governed.

And yet, he said, "every day, reports reach us of new laws broken; of new bestial crimes to which individuals and minority groups are subjected".  Even the necessary and legitimate struggle around the world against terrorism was used as a pretext to abridge or abrogate fundamental human rights, thereby ceding moral ground to the terrorists and helping them find new recruits.

Sadly, once again, the biggest challenge came from Africa, he said, "from Darfur, where the continued spectacle of men, women and children driven from their homes by murder, rape and the burning of their villages made a mockery of our claim, as an international community, to shield people from the worst abuses."

In short, he said the events of the last 10 years had not been resolved, but sharpened, the three great challenges of which he had spoken -- an unjust world economy, world disorder and widespread contempt for human rights and the rule of law.  "As a result, we face a world whose divisions threaten the very notion of an international community, upon which this institution stands", he said.

And that was happening at the very time when, more than ever before, human beings throughout the world formed a single society, he said.  So many of the challenges were global and demanded a global response, in which all peoples must play their part.  "I deliberately say 'all peoples', echoing the preamble of our Charter, and not 'all States'".  International relations were not a matter of States alone.  They were relations between peoples, in which so-called 'non-State actors' played a vital role.  "All must play their part in a true multilateral world order, with a renewed, dynamic United Nations at its centre", he said.

"Yes, I remain convinced that the only answer to this divided world must be a truly United Nations", he said.  Climate change, HIV/AIDS, fair trade, migration, human rights -- "all these issues, and many more, bring us back to that point", he said, adding: "addressing each is indispensable for each of us in our village, in our neighbourhood, and in our country.  Yet each has acquired a global dimension that can only be reached by global action, agreed and coordinated through this most universal of institutions".

What mattered was that the strong, as well as the weak, agreed to be bound by the same rules, to treat each other with the same respect, he said.  What mattered was that all peoples accepted the need to listen; to compromise; to take each other's views into account.  What mattered was that they come together, not at cross purposes, but with a common purpose: to shape their common destiny.

"And that can only happen if peoples are bound together by something more than just a global market, or even a set of global rules. Each of us must share the pain of all who suffer, and the joy of all who hope, wherever in the world they may live", he said.  Each of us must earn the trust of his fellow men and women, no matter what their race, colour or creed, and learn to trust them in turn.  "It is what I believe in.  It is what the vast majority of people in this world want to believe in", he said.

Noting that today was the last time he would present his annual report to the Assembly, he thanked all delegations for allowing him to serve as Secretary-General during "this remarkable decade".

"Together we have pushed some big rocks to the top of the mountain, even if others have slipped from our grasp and rolled back.  But this mountain with its bracing winds and global views is the best place on earth to be", he said, adding that it had been difficult and challenging but, at times, thrillingly rewarding.  And while he looked forward to "resting my shoulder from those stubborn rocks in the next phase of my life, I know I shall miss the mountain."

"Yes, I shall miss what is, when all is said and done, the world's most exalting job.  I yield my place to others with an obstinate feeling, a real obstinate feeling of hope for our common future", he concluded.

Sheikha HAYA RASHED AL KHALIFA ( Bahrain), President of the General Assembly said that the world faced changes that were unprecedented in their speed, scope and scale.  All were increasingly exposed to sharp social and economic inequalities.  The world was afflicted by violent armed conflicts, hunger and disease, international terrorism, organized crime and the proliferation of all types of weapons.  While the world had been brought closer together by the forces of globalization, it was divided by ethnic strife and a growing technological gap.  The enjoyment of human rights was still an unrealized dream for millions of people.

She congratulated her predecessor, Jan Eliasson of Sweden, for the fulfilment under his leadership of many of the commitments agreed to at the 2005 World Summit.  She also paid special tribute to Secretary-General Kofi Annan for his far-sighted vision, leadership and dedication to the principles and values of the Organization.  She told the delegates that the challenge before them was to ensure that their decisions made a lasting difference to the lives of millions of people around the world.  In particular, efforts must focus on the poorest and most vulnerable.

She said development should continue to be the central goal of the United Nations, and it was important to examine the practical measures and strategies that would enable consistent progress in that area.  Making the world a more secure place required the Organization to take a more proactive role when addressing armed conflicts within and among States.  Further progress was needed in the area of conflict prevention, and it was imperative that the high-level debate deliver an actionable outcome on that issue.  At the same time, specific potential causes of tension needed to be addressed, notably in the areas of disarmament and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.  The United Nations Comprehensive Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy needed to be implemented, and a consensus on the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism must be reached.

She said that in the area of institutional reform, it was necessary to complete the outstanding commitments from the 2005 World Summit Outcome document, such as the strengthening of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), Security Council reform and strengthening the organization and streamlining its management.

There was no perfect world, and the United Nations was a reflection of that world.  Remaining committed to multilateralism would allow the values and principles enshrined in the Charter to strengthen resolve to overcome the challenges and threats ahead and bring about a safer and more prosperous world for all.

LUIZ INÁCIO LULA DA SILVA, President of Brazil, said his country was fighting the scourge of hunger and poverty, combining economic stability with social inclusion policies.  The standard of living of Brazilians had improved, and the purchasing power of the minimum wage had increased.  If Brazil had done so much with scarce resources, one could imagine what could have been done on a global scale if the fight against hunger and poverty were a real priority for the international community.   A world where people starved would never be safe, and the true path to peace was shared development.  The search for a new world order that was fairer and more democratic was not only in the interest of poor countries or emerging nations, but in that of rich countries as well, "as long as they have eyes to watch and ears to hear" or did not make the mistake of "ignoring the hideous cry of the excluded".

He said Brazil, together with other Governments, had created an International Drug Purchase Facility to combat AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.  The initiative would provide new sources of funds and facilitate access to medicine at lower costs.  He said the war against the debasement of human beings and hopelessness was the only one in which final victory would mean a triumph for all of humanity.  On international trade, he said subsidies granted by richer countries, particularly in agriculture, were oppressive shackles that held back progress and doomed poor countries to backwardness.  The old geography of international trade must be profoundly reshaped.  Eliminating the barriers that kept poor countries from developing was the ethical duty of the international community, and it was also the best way to ensure prosperity for all.

Brazil was a staunch backer of international organizations for cooperation and dialogue.  He said there was no more effective way to bring States together, to keep the peace, to protect human rights, to promote sustainable development and to build negotiated solutions to common problems.  Conflicts such as that in the Middle East continued to challenge the authority of the United Nations and the recent crisis in Lebanon had exposed the Organization to a dangerous erosion of credibility.  The effectiveness of the United Nations had been seriously questioned.  Unable to act when needed, the Security Council had been accused of being morose, and world public opinion was impatient in the face of such incomprehensible difficulties.  The deaths of innocent civilians, including women and children, were a shock to all, and he called for a broad United Nations-sponsored conference on the Middle East, with the participation of countries of the region and others that could contribute through their capacity and successful experience in living peacefully with differences.

Conflicts among nations were not solved only by money and weapons, he said, and added that ideas, values and feelings also had a place, particularly when based on real-life experience.  The authority of the United Nations needed to be strengthened.  Significant progress had been made with the administrative reform process, the creation of both the Human Rights Council and the Peacebuilding Commission.  The expansion of the Security Council must envisage the entry of developing countries as permanent members.  That would make that body more democratic, legitimate and representative, he stated.

GEORGE BUSH, President of the United States, said that, since the terror attacks of 11 September 2001, the enemies of humanity had continued their campaign of murder.  Al-Qaida and its extremists had attacked more than two dozen Member States, and recently another group of extremists had provoked another conflict in Lebanon.  At the start of the twenty-first century, it was clear that the world was in a great ideological struggle between terrorists who waged a campaign of fear and moderates who worked for peace.  "The calling of our generation is to achieve a world beyond terror", where men and women determined their own destiny and where moderates were in power.  That goal could be achieved if Governments sought it and worked together.

A bright future was beginning to take root in the broader Middle East, including dramatic changes in Afghanistan and Iraq, which now had freely elected leaders, he said.  Every nation that travelled to freedom moved at a different pace.  Democracy reflected each country's own cultures and traditions, but the destination was the same -- a society where people lived at peace with each other and the world.  The argument that such changes destabilized the Middle East was based on the false assumption that the Middle East was stable to begin with.  For decades, people had been trapped in oppression and hopelessness, which created disillusionment and bred terrorism.  Every civilization, including those in the Muslim world, must support regimes that offered an alternative.  When people had a voice, they were less likely to blow themselves up in suicide attacks.  "We must stand with democratic leaders and moderate reformers across the Middle East" and "seek stability through a free and just Middle East where the extremists are marginalized by millions of citizens in control of their own destinies", he said.

He said that extremists' arguments that the West was in a war against Islam were false propaganda designed to confuse and justify acts of terror.  "We respect Islam, but we will protect our people from those who pervert Islam to sow death and destruction."  The goal was to build a more tolerant society that honoured all faiths.  He promised not to abandon Iraq and Afghanistan but to continue to stand with their democratically elected Governments and secure assistance, so as not to yield those countries to terrorism and extremism.  Last year, Lebanon had inspired the world by driving out Syrian forces and restoring democracy.  Since then, it had been tested by Hizbollah's unprovoked attacks on Israel, which caught many in the crossfire, and the world was helping to rebuild in Lebanon.  For years, the country was a model of pluralism and openness; it would be again.

He said he wished to tell the Iranian people that the United States respected them, their country, and their rich history and culture.  Iranians deserved an opportunity to determine their own future, to have an economy that respected their intelligence and talents.  The greatest obstacle to that was the fact that Iran's rulers had denied liberty and used the country's resources to pursue nuclear weapons.  It must abandon those ambitions.  Despite what the regime was telling its people, the United States did not object to a peaceful nuclear programme.  He looked forward to the day when the two countries could live in freedom and be close friends in peace.  He said he wished to tell the people of Syria that their country was becoming a crossroads for terrorism.  Hamas and Hizbollah were working to destabilize the region, and the Syrian Government was becoming a tool of Iran.

Regarding the atrocities and genocide that was occurring in Darfur, he said the world must provide additional humanitarian aid.  The United Nations must act, as lives and its credibility were at stake.  He announced that he was naming Andrew Natsios, the former head of the United States Agency for International Development, as his special envoy for the Sudan to help bring peace to Darfur. 

He said the world must stand up for peace in the Holy Land.  The United States was committed to two States living side by side, with a Palestinian State with territorial integrity living in peace with Israel.  Helping the parties achieve that was one of the great goals of his presidency.  Extremists in the region were stirring up hatred and trying to drown out moderate voices.  He called on the world to serve the interests of the Palestinians by working towards peace.

"Freedom, by its nature, cannot be imposed, it must be chosen", he said.  "From Beirut to Baghdad, people are making the choice for freedom."  Those gathered in the Assembly chamber must make that choice as well, between supporting moderates and reformers or yielding the future to terrorists and extremists.  America had made its choice to stand with moderates and reformers.  "Together, we must support the dreams of good and decent people who are working to transform a troubled region.  By doing so, we will advance the high ideals on which this institution was founded.

THABO MBEKI, President of South Africa, speaking on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, thanked Secretary-General Kofi Annan for never losing sight of the fact that poverty and underdevelopment were the biggest threats to progress.  Indeed, those who lived in the world's poorest region -- Africa -- had declared the current century the "African Century", in the hopes that their continent, and other parts of the world with poor and marginalized people, would be free of wars, hunger, preventable disease, environmental degradation, greed and corruption.  Yet, six years into the new century, terrorism, unilateralism and renewed conflicts competed with the destructive fury of the century just passed.  Some developed nations, too, had consistently refused to implement United Nations agreements that would alleviate poverty.  Indeed, development for all was not possible if mutual responsibility between givers and recipients was absent, nor when the rich demanded the unilateral right to set the agenda and conditions for the implementation of commonly agreed programmes.

He said that countries that had attended the Non-Aligned Movement's recent fourteenth Summit in Havana, Cuba, agreed that only few international agreements had been implemented, with clearly insufficient outcomes.  The absence of a global partnership for development had also led the Doha Development Round of the World Trade Organization to collapse, and the slogan "I'm alright Jack!", invoked by the rich, meant that the Monterrey Consensus on financing for development had not been implemented, making it difficult for developing countries, especially in Africa, to achieve their development goals.  The Johannesburg Plan of Implementation had been reduced to a forgotten piece of paper.

He said that part of the problem with the unequal relationship between rich and poor was the constant shifting of poles whenever the poor adhered to the conditions imposed on them.  Also, countries of the world continued to fail to implement their decisions contained in the United Nations World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance.

The slogan "I'm alright Jack!" seemed to communicate the message: "I don't care about my neighbour as long as I and my family eat well", he said.  Furthermore, when resources flowed from those who had little to those that had plenty, the human race was entitled to ask whether the rich responded the way they did because the further impoverishment of the poor was to their advantage.  Indeed, something was wrong when people risked life and limb, travelling in suffocating containers, to Western Europe in search of a better life.  By the same token, it was also wrong when people whose only fault was their poverty, tried desperately to reach countries where they believed their existence would improve, only to be met with hostile -- and at times barbaric and inhuman -- reception.

He said the United Nations had been unable to fulfil some of the objectives of its founders because the body did not reflect the expansion of the global family.  The Organization needed, urgently, to be reformed.  It was also important for the Bretton Woods institutions, the World Trade Organization and others to embark seriously on the implementation of all their commitments.  Finally, it was not enough to merely note the unacceptable situation in Africa -- focused, concrete programmes to accelerate development were needed in that continent to prevent it from sinking further into poverty and underdevelopment.

TARJA HALONEN, President of Finland, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that, contrary to shared ideals, the realities of war and violence had not become history.  Conflicts and terrorism continued to destroy the social and economic progress that all were striving for.  Sustainable peace in the Middle East could only be achieved through commitment to a peace process that led to a viable independent Palestinian State living in peace with a secure Israel.  The European Union was strongly committed to the respect of international humanitarian law, including the protection of civilians and humanitarian personnel during conflict.  For that reason, it condemned the deaths of hundreds of civilians in Lebanon and Israel in the recent conflict.  Noting that the humanitarian and security situation was deteriorating in Darfur, she strongly urged the Sudanese Government to give its consent to the deployment of the United Nations-led peacekeeping operation there.

The events of the past year showed that terrorism continued to threaten international peace and security, she said.  That threat could be effectively addressed through cooperation within the framework of the United Nations.  She urged Member States to build on the agreement on the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy by reaching a speedy consensus on the comprehensive anti-terrorism convention.  Prevention efforts and the fight against terrorism were important but must be conducted in accordance with human rights, refugee law and international humanitarian law.  The current Assembly session must make progress in disarmament and non-proliferation.  Concrete action was needed on small arms and light weapons at the national, regional and global levels.  The European Union would continue to push for a legally binding treaty on trade in all conventional weapons.

She said the Security Council had a central role to play in addressing the threat of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.  She strongly called upon the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to implement resolution 1695 (2006) and upon Iran to respond positively and swiftly to the demands of the international community in resolution 1696 (2006), as that would pave the way for negotiations on a comprehensive agreement aimed at restoring confidence that Iran's nuclear programme served exclusively peaceful purposes.

She said that development built peace.  Member States must fulfil their common commitments to the global partnership for development and help achieve the Millennium Development Goals.  Every country had the primary right and responsibility for its own development.  The social dimension of globalization, including the importance of decent work for all, deserved special attention in the work of the United Nations, as it contributed to the social and political stability of countries and regions.  Sub-Saharan Africa was not on track to reach the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.  For that reason, the European Union had decided to give 50 per cent of its increase in aid to Africa.  She called on other donors to join the European Union in implementing the Paris Declaration on aid effectiveness.  The international community must deliver real gains to poor countries on trade.  The negotiations of the Doha development agenda must be resumed, and she urged a quick implementation of the "aid for trade" commitments of December 2005.

She said that, ensuring sustainable development was an urgent task.  The Action Plan on Climate Change agreed in Montreal last year needed to be pushed forward urgently.  The European Union favoured transforming the United Nations Environment Programme into a specialized agency, the United Nations Environment Organization, which would be based in Nairobi and built on existing structures.  The European Union was committed to strengthening and mainstreaming human rights within the United Nations system.  It was also committed to ending impunity for the most serious crimes of concern to the international community.  It strongly supported the International Criminal Court and called on all States that were not yet party to the Rome Statute to ratify or accede to it without delay.

The European Union wished to see the United Nations function in a more effective, transparent and accountable way.  Reform of the main bodies was needed, as was management reform and mandate review.  Apart from the reform agenda, there were many important issues to be looked at and solved.  Among those were the challenging negotiations on the scales of assessment.  The European Union also attached great importance to the rapid implementation of the Capital Master Plan.

PERVES MUSHARRAF, President of Pakistan, said that multilateral cooperation was key to addressing the challenges of the twenty-first century.  Over the past six years, Pakistan had moved rapidly towards being a progressive, Islamic and democratic State by reforming its institutions of governance and economy, empowering its women and minorities, and unshackling its media.  Its next aim was to build trade, energy and communication corridors linking South Asia, West Asia, Central Asia and China to accelerate growth in its part of Asia.

He said Pakistan desired a peaceful environment in its region of the world, and it had engaged in a peace process with India, to resolve issues such as the Jammu and Kashmir dispute.  It had also proposed the creation of Strategic Restraint Regime in South Asia, comprising minimum nuclear deterrence and a balance of conventional forces.  However, as a responsible nuclear State, Pakistan would continue to seek nuclear technology for power generation under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards; discrimination in the nuclear field was not acceptable.

He went on to say that peace and stability in Afghanistan was in Pakistan's vital interest, and that a resurgent Taliban would threaten Pakistan's efforts against extremism and terrorism.  The presence of over 3 million Afghan refugees along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border compounded those threats, and a serious international commitment was required to facilitate their repatriation.

Regarding the fight against terrorism, he said Pakistan cooperated with the United States and the United Kingdom daily to pre-empt terrorist plots, such as the one uncovered recently to blow up airliners flying from London.  But, to address terrorism meant understanding that old conflicts and new campaigns of military intervention had spawned a deep sense of injustice across the Muslim world.  Each new battleground involving an Islamic State served as a breeding ground for extremists, while indiscriminate bombings, civilian casualties, torture, human rights abuses, racial slurs and discrimination made defeating terrorism more difficult.  A two-pronged strategy of "enlightened moderation" was needed to address the situation:  apart from combating terrorism frontally, the international community must resolve conflicts afflicting the Islamic world.  To that end, foreign occupation and suppression of Muslim people must end, as should racial and religious discrimination against Muslims.

He said the attack on Lebanon had tested the ability of moderate forces to bring a just peace to the region.  Hopefully, the resolution brokered by the Security Council would lead to complete Israeli withdrawal and restoration of Lebanon's sovereignty over its entire territory.  Meanwhile, the time had come to end Israel's conflicts with its neighbours, first and foremost the tragedy of Palestine, since it was the core of the challenges to overcoming problems in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Confrontations over Iran's nuclear programme, too, should be resolved in a manner that accommodated the legitimate rights and interests of all parties since the resort to coercion, or the use of force, could lead to grave regional and global consequences.

Most developing countries found that international trade and financial structures were weighted against them, he said, and that new modalities must be found -- since the Doha Round was in the doldrums -- to make full use of trade for development.  Also, unless the United Nations accommodated its Members' concerns and priorities, it risked losing its global moral authority.  The General Assembly should reassert its Charter responsibilities, and the Security Council should be reformed to make its actions more democratic, transparent, inclusive and accountable.

JACQUES CHIRAC, President of France, began by asking Member States to work towards peace and recovery in Lebanon, since the confrontation that had recently taken place there had become the epicentre of global instability.  France, Europe and Asia had contributed to the strengthening of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), and it was now up to Israel to completely withdraw its forces and for the Lebanese Government to affirm its sovereignty throughout its territory.  Countries of the region, too, must cooperate fully to ensure the success of Security Council resolution 1701 (2006), and to "tread off the beaten track of habit" by defining a global strategy whose key was an Israeli-Palestinian settlement, where the two could coexist as viable States within safe and recognized borders.  The Quartet should hold a conference to define the guarantees in support of an agreement between the parties.

He went on to say that building peace meant fighting terrorism, preventing proliferation and shouldering the responsibility to protect.  Iran, for example, should restore confidence by suspending its contentious activities and dialogue must prevail.  The international community, in turn, should act in accordance with international law and give due regard to national sovereignty.

Moving on to the "responsibility to protect", he entreated the international community to ward off a humanitarian catastrophe in Darfur and solemnly called on the Sudan to accept the United Nations peace mission without delay.  The International Criminal Court was called on to bring justice to those responsible for crimes in the region.  Humanity needed, more than ever, a strong United Nations, which, with its new Human Right Council and the International Criminal Court, should return to its primary vocation of defending human rights.

He also said that the world's wealth had been increasing like never before, yet the gulf between rich and poor had become more intolerable.  For its part, France had adopted innovative financing mechanisms, such as the international solidarity levy on airplane tickets, as practical ways to raise funds for fighting poverty and pandemics.  The country would also launch UNITAID [a project aimed at granting people access to vital medical treatment] later in the day.  "Let us overcome selfishness and dogmatism and give the idea of a world united for human progress a chance", he said.  France would also host an international conference in 2007 on the environment, to bring together people who believed that uncontrolled human activity must be curtailed.

He ended by paying tribute to Secretary-General Kofi Annan for holding high the torch of the United Nations and the universal values it represented.

LECH KACZYŃSKI, President of Poland, said Poles perceived global partnership for development "through the optics of their own historical experiences, the experiences of the Solidarity movement".  Having shed totalitarianism and taken up modernization, Poland had a special understanding of other countries following a similar path.  It was committed to helping to extend democracy and freedom around the world.  Poland was an active member of the European Union and an ally of the United States; overcoming a painful history, it had come to regard Germany as a friendly neighbour, and it wanted the best possible relationship with the Russian Federation.  Convinced that peace must be built through long-term and sustainable development, Poland supported the European Union cooperating with the United Nations.

He said that, while helping to build Europe's future, Poland had been active in stabilization and peacekeeping missions in many places, such as Kosovo, Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lebanon and Iraq.  Poland supported Israel's right to security; at the same time, it supported Palestinians' aspirations for an independent State.  Poland has been active in UNIFIL; last month it declared it would commit more troops to UNIFIL.

Poland's past had left it with a moral obligation to help others, he continued.  It wanted to support others in the same way that it had received support in the past.  It believed that the way to confront fears that globalization was making some countries richer and other countries poorer was through global solidarity that respected human dignity and everyone's inalienable right to freedom, and opposed the rise of "new iron curtains" and political, economic and cultural walls.  Aid should not only bring temporary relief, but create the prospect of long-term development.

Energy security had become more and more important for many regions; it should be based on diversification of supply sources and the building of links that could not be used as a means of political pressure, he said.  He added that terrorism would find "no soil to grow on" where tensions were resolved through dialogue; respect among cultures and religions was promoted; and economic inequalities were prevented.

The United Nations needed programmes to carry out ambitious visions based on solidarity and partnership, aimed at levelling development opportunities "thus approximating living standards of the North and the South".  The United Nations was confronted with huge tasks which required both commitment and reform, he continued.  Poland advocated such reform and was ready to participate in it, as it wished to participate in a restructuring of international relations based on solidarity.  The world had been changing dynamically and the United Nations must keep pace.  Only then would it "preserve its necessity and multiply its achievements".  Reforms had to be focused on the human being, and on defending human rights and liberties, while opening the way towards welfare and spiritual development for all.  These values laid at the foundation of the United Nations.

DENIS SASSOU NGUESSO, President of the Congo, praised Secretary-General Kofi Annan as "a great son of Africa, a friend and a brother… The world is grateful to you.  Africa is part of you."  He said that, since the United Nations was founded, the world had become more complex, giving reasons for both concern and hope.  It was the world's responsibility to embrace multilateralism in order for "hope to overcome fear", as many challenges had to be confronted collectively, including the environment, drugs and terrorism.  It had become necessary to encourage collective solutions, so that people could live in dignity, safe from want and fear.

The situation in the Middle East continued to be a serious threat to peace and security, he said.  A just, lasting and comprehensive solution had to be found, based on the Road Map and relevant United Nations resolutions.  The role of the Quartet in that matter was crucial.  At the same time, the ceasefire in Lebanon, after a month of pointless violence, had to be consolidated.

Regarding Africa, he said positive developments had been noted in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  All that had to be done now was to ensure a successful conclusion of the electoral process.  Talk about peacebuilding in Burundi, Rwanda and Sierra Leone gave reason for hope for other conflict zones.  At the same time, however, in the Sudan, Somalia and Côte d'Ivoire, the search for a way out of crisis remained on the agenda.  The Congo wanted to see a "natural partnership" develop between the African Union and the United Nations in managing those crises, as called for in Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations.

He said that, while the African Union's commitment to peace in Darfur had never been denied, the gravity of the situation in Darfur meant that more vigorous action was needed.  The Sudan had to take full measure of the tragedy unfolding there.  In Somalia, the international community had to take steps towards peace and stability.  The international community could not lose patience in the quest for peace in Africa, and it had to help on different levels, subject to the acceptance of countries concerned.

Regarding development, that had been dealt with at the Millennium Summit, and the assessment last year had showed serious weaknesses, he continued.  Resources had been lacking and it was essential to look for new financing.  Some months ago, during the High-Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS, an appeal had been launched for universal access to prevention and treatment.  The Congo participated in an initiative to tax airline tickets to mobilize resources in that regard, the so called "UNITAID initiative".  The African Union had also declared a common position on the issue of migration and development that demonstrated the positive role migration could play both for receiving countries and countries of origin. 

He said the Security Council reform and reinvigoration of the General Assembly were a major issue for the African Union.  Representation on the Security Council, the linchpin of the United Nations system, had to be improved.  There could be no half measures in searching for an equitable make-up of the Council.  The Congo also felt that the Security Council should improve its working methods and lay the basis for consensual work.  Member States had to refrain from radicalizing their ideas and bringing about a conflict of civilizations.  The United Nations remained necessary, because it was the firmament of international peace and security.  It was the conscience of mankind.  Africa was prepared to play its part in the debate on the Organization's reform.

VICENTE FOX QUESADA, President of Mexico, said that the peoples of the United Nations were well aware of the fact that the breaches of peace and security and setbacks in the search for greater development were a consequence of insufficient dialogue and cooperation.  "We are also well aware that the root cause of much of the setbacks -- such as those in the field of disarmament, as well as those that take the form of aggression against other people or against the environment -- is the lack of, or the loss of respect among nations", he said.  There would be no peace without forging respect among nations, and no development in the absence of cooperation.  "This house, the highest international forum created by mankind, is built upon the principles and values shared by all peoples.  It is here where the best of ourselves gathers.  It is in this house where we realize that what truly binds us is not violence and hatred, but hope", he said.  The challenges faced were multiple because the aims were high and ambitious.  "This is Mexico's message: a message of hope, of faith in what we are capable of achieving together; a message of confidence in the work done by our United Nations", he added.

Mexico was currently experiencing unprecedented freedoms; growing and developing in peace, with freedom, stability and with its eyes set on new and better horizons for the well-being and justice of all Mexicans, he continued.  His country was very proud to be a founding member of the Human Rights Council and to be the country presiding over the Council's first year of work.  Stating that Mexico cherished the legacy of its indigenous people, he called upon Member States to adopt the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  He also called for nations to sign and ratify the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities.  On the issue of Security Council reform, he said reform should guarantee that all Members States participate with greater frequency in the Council.  Mexico proposed an enlargement of the Council in the non-permanent category with the possibility of immediate re-election.

"Since this is the last time I will be appearing before this Assembly, I wish to express my deepest appreciation to all Member States for the support given to all the initiatives put forth by Mexico throughout the last six years.  I would like to acknowledge the leadership of Kofi Annan, a good friend of Mexico", he said.  He concluded by saying:  "There is no greater enemy or greater obstacle than the lack of hope.  Let us build the future based on the strength of our ideals, putting our confidence in the results our nations can attain by working together."

ELLEN JOHNSON SIRLEAF, President of Liberia, said that the original aims and objectives of the United Nations remained as relevant today as they had been 61 years ago.  The world was truly a global village, bound by a shared commitment to overcome the challenges that threatened global peace, stability and the well-being of the human family.  She noted that the main focus of the General Assembly, implementing a global partnership for international development, must consider how to bring equity to the present international, financial and development structures, and to create conditions that would improve the standards of living of mankind everywhere.

In the new Millennium the United Nations should not operate on structures that had been designed 61 years ago, she said, and the inequitable structure of the Security Council should be reviewed.  That situation should be an urgent reform, especially the process in the Security Council, and the United Nations must find a solution where all nations, large and small, had equal representation.  As the first democratically elected woman President of Liberia, she expressed strong support for women and gender equality, and was interested to read the report of the High-Level Panel on System-Wide Coherence.  She hoped the establishment of an independent United Nations fund or program for the empowerment of women and gender equality would be fully supported by Member States, and have the necessary resources to target programmes for women's empowerment.

Three years ago, Liberians had signed the Accra Comprehensive Peace Agreement and a national transitional Government was installed with the mandate to disarm combatants and prepare the country for elections, she said, and, since the elections in 2005, Liberia has enjoyed peace and security.  She expressed strong gratitude from the people of Liberia to the United Nations and other international partners for their pivotal roles in securing peace and bringing sanity to her country.  She also expressly thanked the United Nations Military Mission in Liberia for their active role in securing and enhancing peace and security.  She strongly commended the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, and Liberia's West African brothers, the United States, the European Union and the People's Republic of China for their support.

However, she continued, while Liberia enjoyed a semblance of peace, she was especially concerned about the instability in the Middle East.  She called on both the Israeli and Palestinian authorities to break out of their cocoon of pride and resolve their differences harmoniously, and encouraged the continued engagement of the United Nations in the amicable resolution of the Middle Eastern crisis.  She expressed concern about the standoff of the peace process in Côte d'Ivoire.  She called on parties on Côte d'Ivoire to resolve their differences and the United Nations to continue strong and decisive intervention to prevent it from becoming a wider subregional and regional crisis.

The situation in Darfur required urgent attention, she said, and the continuing stalemate over the United Nations or African Union should be deployed or maintained in the region exposed weakness in international cooperation and collaboration.  She called on the Assembly and Security Council to exercise the Chapter VII authority to restore peace, security and stability to Darfur.  In addition, she expressed pleasure with the holding of peaceful elections in the Congo for the first time in 40 years.

She said the silver jubilee of HIV/AIDS had brought to focus the recognition that the deadly virus has eluded the sophistication of science and technology, thereby posing one of the greatest challenges to our development effort, she said.  Africa still groped with finding the means to combat curable diseases, while joining in the search to address the incurable.  She called on Liberia's partners in the developed world to treat the issue of antiretroviral drugs outside of politics and as a purely social and humanitarian matter of an emergency nature.  Also, the Government of Liberia welcomed the partial lifting of the arms embargo and the ban on timber as imposed by the United Nations Security Council resolution 1521 and, she said, looked forward to the lifting of the ban on diamonds, as Liberia sought to meet the requirements of the resolution.

"Today, I stand here in testimony of the rebuilt of my country", she concluded.  As in the past, Liberia wished to reaffirm its commitment to the United Nations, "this timeworn but irreplaceable machinery and indispensable framework for international peace".

ABDULLAH II BIN AL HUSSEIN, King of Jordan, said "I come before you today with a deep sense of urgency.  Never has it been more important for the world community to act decisively for peace in my region."  The recent crisis in the Middle East was a crisis for all nations.  There could be no just global order when aggression and occupation were permitted to take the place of international law.  The region's crises were outgrowths of a central grievance, felt throughout the Middle East and indeed the world.  That grievance was Israeli occupation and the denial, over decades, of Palestinian rights.  "Until we end that wrong, conflict will breed more conflict, year after year."

He said the Middle East conflict had repeatedly come before the Organization.  The United Nations position had been repeatedly articulated in resolutions condemning aggression and occupation and affirming Palestinian self-determination.  Yet, each year without progress had brought another crisis, more suffering and more division.  It was time for a better path.  Of course, those who had suffered the terrible destruction of conflict should be helped immediately.  In Lebanon, it must be ensured that the Government could extend its sovereignty and control over all the Lebanese territories.  The Arab world and the international community must exert every effort to support reconstruction and development.

Vital as those measures were, however, in the Middle East they were only partial measures, he said.  "We can only solve the Arab-Israeli conflict by addressing the issue at its core; the restoration of internationally recognized Palestinian rights."  In 2002, the 22 Arab States had led the way with a breakthrough peace proposal.  The vision was a viable, independent Palestinian State, living side-by-side with a secure Israel.  Under the Arab Peace Initiative, Israel's security would be guaranteed and the occupation of Palestine would end, in compliance with United Nations resolutions.

He said events had shown clearly that there could be no unilateral solution to the conflict.  There must be a genuine partnership among all parties, in the context of international legality and justice.  Such a global partnership for peace was directly connected to the global partnership for development.  Across the world, nations at peace were moving forward with economic growth and development, investing in education, building communities, and helping to shape the future of the globe.  "But no nation succeeds in isolation", he said.  "All nations, all people -- especially our youth -- must be able to share in a promising future.  We must make peace a priority.  And we must do so now."

JOHN AGYEKUM KUFUOR, President of Ghana, said that Ghana had been working relentlessly towards achieving the goals agreed upon at last year's World Summit, in the firm belief that its development partners would support efforts to improve the living conditions of its people.  Ghana recognized good governance as crucial for sustainable development and had worked assiduously at establishing a robust culture of democracy, sound economic management and adherence to the rule of law.  Against that background, Ghana had readily submitted itself to the African Peer Review Mechanism under the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD).

He said that the collective objective of alleviating the economic plight of the majority of mankind might continue to prove elusive unless the pursuit of international peace and security was effectively addressed.  Ghana, therefore, viewed with grave concern the continuing spread of terrorist activities.  There must be a quick conclusion of the proposed Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism.

He said that another scourge to world security was the snail-paced nature of talks on eliminating nuclear weapons and the added threat of proliferation.  The United Nations must intensify its pressure for the total elimination of such weapons.  Nuclear energy had positive uses, but as long as nations did not show transparency with their know-how, the world would not feel secure.  He appealed to such nations to show transparency in their cooperation with the IAEA by complying with the NPT.  The spread of small arms and lights weapons was yet another scourge, especially for Africa.  Collective efforts since 2001 had yielded significant results, but were far from achieving the desired target. 

African nations were doing more and more to demonstrate their proactive commitment to managing and resolving conflicts on their continent.  For that reason, Ghana supported the Secretary-General's determination to forge a close partnership between the United Nations and the African Union.  Deepening Africa's peacekeeping capacity through training, logistical and financial support was crucial to the success of that goal.

He said that the many resolutions and launches of various Commissions, such as the Peacebuilding Commission and the Human Rights Council, clearly indicated the Organization's determination to make the world a better and safer place for mankind.  For that to happen, however, the United Nations must undergo more radical reforms and be better equipped to effectively implement its decisions.  Thus, the debate to reform the Security Council based on the principles of democracy, sovereign equality of States and equitable geographical representation was very much in order and must be supported.

Lastly, he paid tribute to his fellow countryman, Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who had brought much honour and distinction to Ghana by his excellent stewardship of the United Nations over the past 10 years.  His tenure had witnessed the phenomenal acceleration of the globalization process.  The Secretary-General could also claim some credit for deftly shepherding the Organization through complicated and transformational challenges.  There was no doubt he retired with an enviable legacy of contributing immensely to shaping the destiny of the Organization and the world's affairs.  Ghana was proud of him and looked forward to receiving him heroically at home.

MORITZ LEUENBERGER, President of Switzerland, said that "when war is raging somewhere in the world, it affects us all".  The feeling of powerlessness in the face of violent conflict can be overcome by joining together to work for peace.  For a country, such as Switzerland, the United Nations was the most important means of pursuing that vision.  "The United Nations embodies our hopes of justice and solidarity", he said.  War, terrorism, drug trafficking, the off shoring of jobs or environmental and climate-related disasters were all global threats.  They knew no borders, not even those of powerful nations.  No State was the master of its own fate, not even a strong State.  Switzerland believed the international community could best address conflicts worldwide by helping the victims of violence or disaster; by establishing a legal system and enforcing it; and, by examining the deeper causes of violence and seeking to redress them.

By standing by the victims of disaster with humanitarian assistance, the United Nations had succeeded in building up positive empathy and strengthening trust in it worldwide, he continued.  Should the United Nations fail in its humanitarian task, though, desperation and the tendency towards violence increased and intensified conflicts, such as can be witnessed in the Middle East and Darfur.   In the establishment of a legal system, for example, in fighting terrorism, the struggle could only be credible if human rights were respected in its pursuit.  In order to enforce a legal system, all countries, including the large ones, should adopt the Statute on the International Criminal Court.  He cited the creation of the Peacebuilding Commission and the Human Rights Council as demonstrating that the United Nations took values, such as the protection of human rights, seriously and was able to develop new forms of peacebuilding.  Reforming and enlarging the Security Council would reinforce its legitimacy, he added.

In terms of tackling the roots of problems, he pointed to a number of issues, among them, environmental disasters that gave rise to mass migration and to millions of refugees; access to clean water as a grounds for conflict; and, economic inequalities which were also often at the root of religious conflicts.  He added that the conflict in the Middle East, the stabilization of Iraq and the resolution of the crisis with Iran could be addressed through dialogue.  There was also no other choice than to take a stand against a clash of cultures through a dialogue of cultures and religions.

He concluded his speech with words of thanks to Secretary-General Kofi Annan, saying that through his commitment to the goals of the United Nations, to the reforms and to the fight against poverty, he exemplified political responsibility and human compassion.

JOSE MANUEL ZELAYA ROSALES, President of Honduras, said the General Assembly united the hopes and dreams of the world.  However, it was difficult to understand the contrasts of poverty, war, nuclear threats and other "cruel situations" that existed between the latitudes of the world.  Social divisions had grown in recent decades, and economics and science had not gone hand in hand with morals.  "We are moving away from the principles and values of true justice", he said.  It was for that reason that the Assembly had focused on the fact that humanity needed to channel its objectives according to "healthy principles" that would dignify all people.

He said that, when the twentieth century had ended, it had been believed that tyranny, too, had come to an end.  But, today, tyranny had cropped up again, including commercial tyranny, of a sort at times worse than that seen in years past.  There were people who wanted to promote free markets, but, at the end of the day, they were promoting protectionism and insensitivity.  Rather than liberty serving people, liberty was serving investment.  Protection was needed not just for investment, but also for vulnerable people, such as children, small farmers and business people unable to get onto the ladder of global trade.  "We all want a free market, but an ethical free market", he said.  "We want to live in a globalized world where identity, patriotism, and the dignity and sovereignty of people are respected."

He said his country went before the Assembly to denounce the double talk of those who might promote democracy and free trade, but who had proven to be insensitive to those who suffered from hunger, unemployment and exclusion.  Referring to the Assembly's recent High-Level Dialogue on migration, he said that remittances sent by workers abroad were in fact a "mirage" that concealed the exploitation of labour.  He condemned "monopolistic control systems, privileges and exceptions" which prevented the building of true democracy and markets.  Governments around the world had to be led by men and women who longed for peace, not by multinationals that tended towards war.

He said Central America, of which Honduras was a part, had been "a historical theatre of absurd wars" often provoked from abroad.  Nevertheless, the region was in the vanguard of those who sought a joint solution to the world's problems.  "We do not lose faith or hope in a better world", he said.  Central Americans stood tall; they would continue to fight for food security, energy independence and an economy that served people, as well as markets.  "Central America opens itself to the world so that the world can open itself to Central America", he said.  As "the waist of the Americas" it was prepared for investment in various areas, including tourism, and to stand as a bridge between the world's markets.

TASSOS PAPADOPOULOS, President of Cyprus, said that the legitimacy and relevance of the United Nations reform process would be judged by its impact on people's lives.  For example, as a country whose priority was to uphold international law and full respect for human rights, Cyprus had a strong interest in seeing the establishment of a Human Rights Council lead to human rights improvements on the ground.  Some aspects of reform continued to be elusive, such as Security Council reform and a comprehensive convention against terrorism.  In fact, when violence first broke out during the crisis in Lebanon, Cyprus supported calls for an immediate ceasefire.  Unfortunately, it took almost a month for the Security Council to discharge its responsibilities, leading to disappointment and frustration.  Meanwhile, the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories continued to deteriorate.

Cyprus itself, he said, epitomized the inability of the international community to address massive violations of international legality -- having faced a problem of invasion and continuing occupation of 37 per cent of Cypriot territory by Turkish military forces for more than 32 years.  Effort had continually been spent on negotiating a peaceful settlement and turning the territory, people, society, economy and institutions into a "bizonal" and "bicommunal" federation.  Careful preparation of any negotiating process was needed before full-fledged negotiations could take place.  That would include determining the lawful population of the island, bringing an end to the unlawful exploitation of properties of Greek Cypriot refugees in the occupied area in accordance with case-law of the European Court of Human Rights, and ensuring that the economy stayed in line with the Stability Growth Pact of the European Union.

He said it had been hoped that Turkey's accession to the European Union would have resulted in the implementation of that country's legally binding obligations vis-à-vis the European Union.  Unfortunately, it had persistently refused to adhere to them, and had blocked Cyprus' own bid to join several international and regional organizations.  Turkish ports and airports, too, had been closed to Cypriot vessels.  There was only one way forward: creating a future of peace and cooperation and working together to achieve the European Union's goals for the region.

ÓSCAR ARIAS SANCHEZ, President of Costa Rica, said he had come 20 years before to plead on behalf of five countries in America who were caught in the balance between war and peace, prosperity or destruction.  Those countries were no longer pawns in the Cold War, but the road toward the realization of humanity in the world at large had barely begun.  If human rights were to be more than some distant utopia as they were for millions at present, three steps would have to be taken.

First, he said, the proliferation in military spending must stop.  Second, trade must be used for the benefit of all people.  And third, the civil rights of all people must be vigorously defended through all the changes of globalization that were occurring now.

Elaborating, he said the right to development was directly linked to disarmament.  The investment most industrialized nations made on defence was 10 times what they dedicated to official development assistance.  The United States spent 25 times as much on defence as it did on foreign aid.  Was that not a twisted rationality?  Since "9/11", $21 million had been added to that country's military spending and there was no evidence that human rights had been further advanced.  In fact, the opposite was the case.  Perhaps the money should be dedicated to providing clean water to those who didn't have it.  Every dollar spent on the purchase of arms was a dollar taken away from helping the poor.  Every gun that was produced and every warship launched signified a theft from those who were hungry, not just the theft of food, but of a prosperous and peaceful future and of the hopes of children.  In turn, the poor should not be complicit in that theft from them for investment in arms.

Costa Rica had abolished its army and arms, he said.  Children in Costa Rica had never seen tanks and the schools of today had once been barracks.  Costa Rica was a nation of liberty, a road it would never abandon.  All should support the Costa Rican initiative of a fund to reward developing countries with incentives, such as additional aid to education or a reduction of debt in exchange for reductions of spending on weapons.  An arms trade treaty should also be elaborated to prohibit that activity, if there were indications the arms would be used to harm either people or some aspects of sustainable development.  An expert group should be charged with elaborating the text.

Finally, he said trade was the main road to development.  The strongest argument for opening markets was that it reduced poverty.  The World Bank had reported that the largest decreases in poverty in recent years were due to the expanded markets of China and India.  There were three things developing nations needed: help, solidarity and most of all consistency.  That meant that a free market economy should really be free, borders should be equally regulated and the elimination of commercial barriers should be applied to all.  Meanwhile, the strongest safeguard of security and development in the world was the strengthening of global governance.

VAIRA VIKE-FREIBERGA, President of Latvia, said the past few years had seen the spectrum of United Nations peacekeeping, humanitarian and human rights operation reach an unprecedented level and, yet, that was still not enough to meet the needs of millions of people urgently needing help from the Organization.  There were many global issues requiring urgent and concerted attention.  The Millennium Development Goals would only be achieved by pooling efforts and resources against the crushing poverty debilitating billions.

She said it was noteworthy that the United Nations had been an effective instrument in countries where the political will existed for cooperation on alleviating the plight of the poor, even though the Organization effectively had been called into question, not without good reason.  More innovative approaches must be deployed to meet development objectives, including the more effective use of information and communication technology and a better use of opportunities provided by the newest technological developments.  Partnerships must be built to tackle diseases; coordination and regional cooperation must be improved with regard to challenges of migration; efforts on terrorism and non-proliferation must be accelerated; and peacekeeping must be made a more effective and accepted as an instrument of collective security.

Citing the recent advances of the newly created Peacebuilding Commission and Human Rights Council, she turned to the reform of the Organization and said an effective Secretariat was crucial for the United Nations system's ability to adapt to evolving challenges.  Tangible results on improving efficiency and accountability should be established during the current Assembly session.  Progress was also needed on mandate review, revitalizing of the General Assembly and reform of the Security Council.

Acknowledging the leadership and tireless dedication of the Secretary-General, she said she had been appointed Special Envoy on United Nations Reform and, as many knew, had recently decided to submit her candidacy for the position of Secretary-General.  She was personally committed to addressing the challenges posed by United Nations reform and promoting human rights, freedom and democracy, including gender equality.  No woman had ever been at the helm of the Organization and the time has come for a woman to be considered a serious candidate.  The historical events of the last century had prevented the naming of a Secretary-General from Eastern Europe, despite the wealth of experience it had to offer on effecting radical changes and achieving progress in a remarkably brief period of time.  The principle of regional rotation should not be the principal factor in selecting a candidate.  The world needed a strong United Nations and leaders had to build bridges of understanding to make it as strong as it needed to be.

ELIAS ANTONIO SACA GONZALEZ, President of El Salvador, said the international community faced challenges that required immediate attention, noting particularly that the United Nations was operating peace missions in 17 countries and regions.  He called for peace and security in the Middle East, as well as dialogue and understanding that would lead to all Palestinians and Israelis living in peace and security.  On the situation in Lebanon, he praised the Security Council's adoption of resolution 1701, which he said set out a path for a negotiated settlement to the conflict there.  He stressed that one of the main ways to ensure peace in the region, and in Lebanon in particular, would be to step up efforts to ensure that all illegal arms and armed groups were removed from the region.

He went on to vigorously condemn all acts of terrorism, whenever and wherever committed, by whom and whatever the proposed cause on aim.  The threat of terrorism was a daily reality, but the opportunity to combat the scourge was now in the hands of the international community, with the Assembly's recent adoption of a comprehensive counter-terrorism strategy.  He called on all parties of conflict to observe a ceasefire on the Assembly's designated International Day of Peace.  Those parties should also engage in dialogue and confidence-building measures.

Turning to his own region, he talked about the emergence and rising threat of gangs and gang-activity.  El Salvador was actively engaged in broad efforts to cope with all forms or organized crime and would call on the United Nations and other international organizations to cooperate with it and other countries in the region in that regard, including through identifying youth programmes and awareness raising initiatives.

Next, he turned to United Nations reform and stressed the importance of ensuring that the Security Council was transformed into a more representative and democratic body.  The Council should also have an increased share of members from developing countries.  He also praised the establishment of the Peacebuilding Commission, as well as the creation of the new Human Rights Council.  On other United Nations matters, he called on the world body to address the situation between China and Taiwan.  He said that the aim of the Organization should not be to marginalize some 23 million peace-loving people.  He called for the opening of a space for the participation of Taiwan in the work of the Organization, particularly in the economic and social fields.

Turning next to matters related to sustainable development, he acknowledged that, while the lion's share of development concerns should be addressed by the States themselves, the international community must also provide assistance to ensure that all nations could meet internationally agreed development goals.  Donor nations should step up their effort to meet the agreed 0.7 per cent of gross domestic product for official development assistance.  He called on development partners and the international financial institutions to become genuine partners and allies, so that all low- and middle-income countries could enhance the lives and livelihoods of their people.  He said that his Government, for its part, had carried out many development-related activities, including an integrated strategy that would take into account the needs of those living in 92 of the country's municipalities.  It had also made strides in education and health.

He said that the high price of oil was having an adverse affect on El Salvador's economy.  His country believed that oil should not be used as leverage, but as a tool to boost development.  With that in mind, he called for a more stable oil regime and increased efforts to ensure that low- and middle-income countries did not adversely suffer from shocks in the oil market.  Finally, he said that the United Nations now faced a choice: whether to be anachronistic or to modernize its programmes and structures to be able to face current challenges.  But, it was ultimately up to States to see that the Organization was renewed and that the spirit and principle of multilateralism prevailed over the use of force.

RUNALDO RONALD VENETIAAN, President of Suriname, said the international community must support the call for fair terms of trade, increased market access for products from developing countries and for a supportive international financial architecture.  Numerous United Nations commitments in the economic and social fields, in particular the Millennium Development Goals and the Monterrey Consensus, should be used as guidance when embarking on partnerships for development.  Focus should be given to building political will to create genuine opportunities in trade and investment.

Furthermore, partnerships for development should enhance private sector involvement, he said, praising the United Nations Global Compact for its role in promoting such involvement.  Civil society, too, should contribute actively to the process, so that their activities were complementary to national development efforts.  In terms of world security, all States should cooperate to find lasting solutions to persistent situations adversely affecting international peace and security.  The United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy was a step forward in arriving at an effective international response.  To combat the illegal drug trade and organized crime -- both of which had an impact on international security -- also required cooperative action and, in that connection, Suriname would be hosting an anti-narcotics conference in October.

EVO MORALES AIMA, President of Bolivia, said he had come on behalf of the people of his country, particularly the indigenous people, to repair the damage caused over the past 50 years by corporations pillaging the country's natural resources.  Taking away people's rights to their natural resources was the worst form of violation against them and it went hand in hand with marginalization and social exclusion.  His own mother, for example, had not been allowed to walk on some city streets.  Radical changes were being introduced to bring about change and improve unjust social conditions.

He noted that some people were concerned that the new Government would commit rights violations in the other direction, such as institutionalizing the nationalization or confiscation of private property.  There was no cause for fear; private property would be respected and nothing would be confiscated.  People would continue to earn money on their investments, just not as much as before because social conditions must be addressed.  Bolivia had a lot of wealth, but also much poverty and its people had been leaving the country, first for the United States and now for Europe.  It wished to pin its future on free trade through fair import and export laws that would alleviate unemployment.  " Bolivia's products should arrive in Europe, not its people", he stressed.

Another form of injustice was the system behind the criminalization of the coca leaf, he said, adding that it was unjust for coca leaf to be legal for the Coca-Cola Company but not for others.  Unfortunately, some had misused coca, but it had been proven that the leaf was not harmful to people and, therefore, it would not be a matter of "zero" coca cultivation, as the United States demanded.  Furthermore, the mechanism for controlling drug trafficking should take the form of an alliance, not threats or pretexts for domination or for establishing military bases on other people's property under the pretext of controlling drugs.  Justice did not trample on rights.

Recalling that he had been in charge of the Forum on Indigenous Peoples in Geneva, he stressed the urgency of adopting the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples at the conclusion of the Decade.  Indigenous peoples were peaceful and had a right to protect their lands and environments.  They were pro- life and pro-equality, not for imperialism.  Equality involved reducing social inequalities and ending the pillaging of natural resources.  In the interest of global justice, it was time to withdraw troops from Iraq and to end policies that concentrated the world's capital in a few hands.  It was time to change the world and the economic models, in order to save the world itself.

MAHMOUD AHMADI-NEJAD, President of Iran, said the afflictions of humanity today were incompatible with human dignity.  Expanding dominion by causing war and conflict, ruling the world with weapons and occupying the homeland of others, interfering in their affairs and controlling their resources were behaviours unworthy of human beings.  Fundamental questions in those situations were:  Where should the oppressed go for justice?  Where was the seat of global justice?  A glance at the most pressing global issues illustrated the problem.

One area was the unbridled expansion of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, with some powers proudly announcing the production of second- and third-generation nuclear weapons, he said.  Most conflicts arose from injustice, and from the powerful not being content with their own rights, but striving to devour those of others.  But people everywhere embraced justice and would die for it.  Global Powers could better ensure their longevity, while winning minds and hearts, by championing real justice, instead of threatening with weapons.  Experience had proved that nuclear weapons achieved nothing more than the exacerbation of tension, hatred and animosity.

He said the second area of stress was the occupation of countries and the exacerbation of hostilities, which was demonstrable by three situations.  One was the three-year occupation of Iraq, where there was no indication that the occupiers had the political will to eliminate the source of instability, while the intensification of hostilities and terrorism served as a pretext for the continued presence of foreign forces.  The roots of the Palestinian problem went back to the Second World War and concerned a regime that enjoyed blanket support while the Palestinian people were bombarded daily and their democratically elected officials were incarcerated in full view of the international community.  The final example was the 33-day barrage of fire and bombs on Lebanon earlier this year while the Security Council sat idly by.  The question in all those cases was where the wronged parties could go to get justice.  The answer was self-evident -- when the Power behind the hostilities was itself a permanent member of the Security Council, how could the Council fulfil its responsibilities?

The final area of pressing global concern was in the lack of respect for the rights of members of the international community, he said.  Iran, for example, was a member of IAEA and was committed to the NPT.  But some Governments who objected to the exercise of the legal and supervised exercise of Iran's nuclear rights were themselves abusers of nuclear technology for non-peaceful ends, including the production of nuclear bombs.  Some even had a bleak record of using them against humanity.  Where was the Council in such situations?  The abuse of the Security Council as an instrument of threat and coercion was a grave concern.

Regrettably, justice had become a victim of force and aggression, he said.  Global arrangements had become unjust, discriminatory and irresponsible.  Threats with instruments of war had replaced respect for the rights of nations.  For some countries, claims of promoting human rights and democracy lasted only so long as they could be used as instruments of pressure and intimidation against others.  Nations were unequal in exercising the rights recognized by international law.  The Security Council was used to ensure the rights of some big Powers, while it had to remain aloof when the oppressed were decimated.  Global interaction was such that certain Powers equated themselves with the international community and considered their decisions as superseding those of 180 others.

The persistence of some hegemonic Powers in imposing their exclusionist policies on international decision-making mechanisms had resulted in mistrust by the global public, he said.  The credibility and effectiveness of the most universal system of collective security had been undermined.  The structure and working methods of the Security Council must be reformed by the mechanisms of the General Assembly.  In the interim, the Non-Aligned Movement, the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the African continent should each have a representative as a permanent member on the Council, with veto privileges.

NICANOR DUARTE FRUTOS, President of Paraguay, said that, for his country, peace and security, social justice, democracy and human rights were fundamental pillars that were mutually reinforcing.  It was regrettable that the Secretary-General, for all his travels to conflict zones, had been unable to observe the widespread misery and social exclusion that were the products of disorder and injustice.  Every country was responsible for its own development, but national efforts must be supplemented with help from the developed countries in order to ensure access to international markets, fair trade and fair prices for goods.  Farm subsidies, protectionism, technology transfer and distortions in world trade, together with ethno-centric control of information, knowledge and science, had relegated developing countries to the margins.  Customs duties and other tariffs must be removed, not only by developing countries but also by their international partners.

He reported that his country had been on track to meet the Millennium Development Goal on education.  It had set a target of zero illiteracy, and had also been improving health services and undertaking rural reforms.   Paraguay had been fighting corruption, piracy, drug trafficking and smuggling.  It had achieved low crime rates, although it was obliged to improve ethics in its judicial branch.  Economically, Paraguay had seen an increase in its domestic savings rate, good and stable macroeconomic policies and enjoyed creditor status with the main financial institutions.

Turning to terrorism, he said that combating it should be a unifying issue.  But, while it was true that fundamentalists were anachronistic and dangerous, terrorism should not be the sole item on the global agenda.  Moreover, anti-terrorist actions must be conducted within the bounds of international law.

He said his country supported Taiwan's accession to the United Nations, consistent with the principle of universality enshrined in the United Nations Charter and the norms of international law.  On reforming the United Nations, Paraguay and the Southern Common Market group were placing their hopes on changes to the Security Council.  Concerning the mega-millions spent on weapons in the world, they could have gone instead into education and poverty eradication, at a time when a "scandalous" rise in oil prices had been leading to stagnation in developing countries.  Bread could not be taken from the mouths of children for the sake of fratricidal weapons.  The United Nations must contribute to the development, well-being and freedom of all peoples, leading to a world of prosperity, justice and solidarity.

OMER HASAN AL-BASHIR, President of the Sudan, said the present session of the Assembly fell on the fiftieth anniversary of his country's independence.  In the spirit of that great achievement, the Sudan would seize the opportunity to reaffirm its condemnation of hegemony, double standards and the use of international organizations to achieve strategic or political objectives.  Because of the Sudan's desire for stability and prosperity, peace had become a daily reality in the country.  To that end, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement had been signed in 2005, setting up a democratic division of power between the North and the South.  It had also established principles for the division of wealth between the northern and southern provinces.  The Agreement was fair and just and should secure peace for the entire country.  The Government of National Unity had been established, as had been a Government structure for South Sudan, and discussion of constitutional structures had also begun.

He stressed, however, his Government's belief that peace could not be real or sustainable without peace in the western Darfur region.  With that in mind, a peace deal had been signed in May with groups in that area.  The African Union deserved thanks for sparing no effort to bring all the parties together, as did the African Union Mission in the Sudan for its pioneering experiment in Darfur, which served as a shining example of what regional organizations could accomplish on their own.  The African Union deserved praise for carrying out its duties in the face of pressure from hegemonic Powers that had designs of their own.  A President had been appointed for the transitional power in Darfur, and Khartoum was committed to the letter and spirit of the Darfur Peace Agreement.  All parties that had not yet signed the agreement should do so as soon as possible.

At the same time, he stressed that, if some parties remained outside the Agreement, they must be isolated, in accordance with the Peace Agreement, so that the international community could begin to strengthen the Government's capacity to ensure peace, prosperity and rehabilitation in the Darfur region.  Indeed, the international community should stand by its pledges, particularly in the area of debt relief and the easing of sanctions that some had imposed on the Sudan, which were now hindering development.  Furthermore, certain parties were undermining reconciliation by sending negative signals to those groups that had not signed the Peace Agreement.

That trend had climaxed with the Security Council's adoption of resolution 1706 (2006), which obviously and solely served the ends of the Council and effectively put the Sudan under the trusteeship of certain parties on the Council, he said.  That made it necessary for the Government and its partners to continue working together to ensure peace and reconstruction in Darfur.  The Sudan refused all dictates and all attempts to manipulate its will.  It also rejected all underhanded attempts at recolonization.  Attempts to impose a new force of international troops on the Sudan, without consultation and without taking the country's special circumstances into consideration, was reprehensible.  The Sudan absolutely refuted all such manoeuvring.

He went on to recall that Governments had pledged at last year's Summit to ensure that the United Nations worked collectively and cooperatively to ensure sustainable development and peace for all.  To that end, the five permanent members of the Security Council had to ensure that it carried out its duties in a framework of real democracy.  The Sudan, therefore, called for renewed efforts to reform the Council, which, in its present form, actually impeded democracy.  Conflicts had continued to erupt -- particularly in the Middle East -- without any action on the Council's part to end the violence.

The 2005 World Summit had fallen far short of the goals that had been set, particularly regarding the African continent, which was being bled to death by outsiders, he said.  The international community must stand by its commitments, or Africa would never be able to attain the Millennium Goals by the 2015 target date.  Developed countries must also stand by the pledges made at the Monterrey International Conference on Financing for Development and the Brussels Conference on the Least Developed Countries.  Unilaterally applied, economic measures hampered development, particularly the transfer of technology.  The Sudan called on the international community to end its double standards regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict by, among other things, ensuring the implementation of relevant Security Council resolutions.

JENS STOLTENBERG, Prime Minister of Norway, reiterated his support for the United Nations as it led efforts to address the world's most critical issues, and called on supporters to be agents of change and renewal.  As a member of the United Nations panel for reform, Norway was helping to develop proposals on how to better address development, humanitarian assistance and environmental issues, particularly in light of the many new agencies and activities added to the United Nations portfolio over the years.  In several countries, the United Nations system was represented by more than 20 different organizations.  There must be an end to duplication, fragmentation and rivalry between different parts of the system.

Instead, there must be a renewed focus on results to ensure that "less is spent on bureaucracy and more is spent in the field", he said.  Governance and financing could not be separated, and every efficiency gain must be channelled to the developing world.  The panel's report would be presented to the Secretary-General later this year.  For its part, Norway was working to achieve all eight Millennium Development Goals.  The country had given 0.96 per cent in development assistance and would reach the 1 per cent mark within years.   Norway was now working vigorously to achieve Millennium Goal 4, a reduction in child mortality by two thirds by 2015 and, to that end, Norway would increase its annual contribution towards fighting child mortality to $125 million as of next year, from a current $75 million.  The country would contribute a total $1.3 billion through 2015.  The next step would be to develop a global strategy dedicated to addressing that Goal.

TEIMA ONORIO, Vice-President of the Republic of Kiribati, said that peace and security remained elusive in the world, with ongoing conflicts and the threats of new conflicts.  Much more needed to be done, she said, in order to remove the threat posed by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.  While some progress had been made in the illicit trade of small arms and light weapons, further work was needed to eliminate that threat.

For least developed countries and small island developing States, the challenges of economic development remained at the forefront of their agendas, she said, and marginalization continued to be a problem plaguing those countries.  In addition, fighting the HIV/AIDS pandemic and tuberculosis, among other diseases, stretched the country's already meagre resources.

Because Kiribati was composed of low-lying coral atolls, she said, it was particularly vulnerable to global warming and the sea-level rise, which were imminent threats to its way of life.  Rising sea levels affected the country's ground-level water supply and gradually eroded the land available on the 33 islands.  But, because the islands were narrow, if citizens moved inland they risked falling either into the ocean or lagoons.  Those problems were a matter of national security for the country, and it called for the international community to agree on a unified global response on those critical issues.  She stressed the country's strong support for environmental issues.

She called for discussion on various issues concerning United Nations reform, and urged Member States to consider multilateralism.   Kiribati's position on the reform of the Security Council remained unchanged, and it noted with interest the report of the working group.  Additionally, she expressed a desire to see Japan qualify to be a permanent member of the Security Council.

She noted that, in the Pacific Region, there had been successful examples of regional cooperative efforts.  The regional assistance mission to the Solomon Islands had made substantial contributions to peace and order in that country, and Kiribati would continue to support their work.  The Pacific regional assistance to Nauru had made positive contributions to that country, and area leaders would meet to discuss progress on the Pacific plan.

She expressed a warm welcome to the Republic of Montenegro for joining the United Nations as a Member State, and expressed regret that Taiwan had been rejected from joining the United Nations as a Member State.

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