21 September 2006

Afghanistan's President, in General Debate, Calls for more Decisive International Action to Prevent Terrorists from Derailing Post-War Transition

Other Leaders Concerned about 'Hegemony', Small Arms Proliferation, Nuclear Issues

NEW YORK, 20 September (UN Headquarters) -- President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan said his country continued to make progress in meeting the milestones of its post-war transition, but terrorists saw ultimate defeat in prosperity and were committing horrific acts of violence to try and derail Afghanistan's path to success.

Speaking during the general debate on the second day of the General Assembly's sixty-first session, he said: "Terrorism does not emanate from within Afghanistan; Afghanistan is its worst victim."  Military action alone would not deliver the shared goal of eliminating terrorism.  The sources of terrorism beyond Afghanistan's borders must be destroyed and the elaborate networks that recruited, indoctrinated, financed, armed and deployed terrorists must be dismantled.

The terrorists wanted the international community to fail in its collective efforts to help Afghanistan rebuild, he said, calling for a more decisive response to prevent them from inflicting even greater damage on the country.  Such a response must include tackling the narcotics trade, which fed terrorism and threatened the foundations of legitimate economic development.  Afghanistan also needed help to improve the security environment, to increase the number of comprehensive alternative livelihood programmes and to stem clandestine credit flows to poppy farmers.

Welcoming the Assembly's recent adoption of the comprehensive Counter-Terrorism Strategy, he called for the convening of a high-level conference on international terrorism.  Afghanistan also supported all initiatives to promote understanding and cooperation among civilizations, in response to the troubling growth of "Islamophobia" in the West.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi of Malaysia reinforced that point, saying that the schism between the West and the Muslim world would grow even deeper unless the international community was prepared to accept certain facts as the truth.  The sense of humiliation felt by Muslims was at the root of the lost trust between them and Judeo-Christian civilization.  Much prejudice against Islam stemmed from a lack of understanding of the religion and its importance in the daily lives of Muslims.  With that in mind, the demonization of Islam must end.

He said that the predetermination of certain countries as "rogue" or "evil" States would lead to the failure of dialogue, as such name-calling provided an excuse not to listen, let alone engage in serious negotiations to find amicable solutions to serious problems.  A blatant example of a refusal even to grant a hearing had been the early decision by many important countries not to recognize or do business with Hamas after that group's assumption of power in the Occupied Palestinian Territory through a properly conducted and democratic election.

President Hugo Chávez Frías of Venezuela decried the "hegemony" of the United States, describing that country's statement yesterday as a recipe for ruling the world.  The democracy promoted by the American President was a false one of elites, for no democracy could be imposed with bombs.  That situation was a result of the United Nations having collapsed.  No one today could defend the effectiveness of a system established after the Second World War.

The United Nations must be rebuilt and the Security Council reformed with an expanded membership and effective methods to resolve world conflicts, he stressed, adding that the anti-democratic veto must be suppressed immediately, to prevent situations like the bombardment of Lebanon, which had been carried out as the world looked on.  Venezuela was seeking a non-permanent seat on the Security Council, but the United States wished to prevent that, on the grounds that the country was "extremist".  However, Venezuela's bid had the support of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), the Arab League, the African Union, the Russian Federation, China and many others.

President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe said it was sad that the Security Council had dithered and failed to prevent the situation in Lebanon and blamed the misguided national interests of one super-Power for that outcome.  The Security Council must be reformed, as some countries considered themselves superior because of their power.  However, that was not a consideration under the United Nations Charter, and every Goliath had his own David.

Joseph Kabila, President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said his country would soon have new national institutions.  The country's first elections in some 40 years had taken place in July, thanks to the people's common will and to bilateral and multilateral partners.  While they had not been held without incident, the electoral process would continue in a relaxed climate and in national harmony, the result of a laborious political process after lengthy armed conflicts representing one of the biggest tragedies in the history of humankind.

Michelle Bachelet, Chile's first woman President, described the United Nations as a special instrument for constructing international law and institutions for a more integrated world.  While terrorism was contrary to those shared values and negated the security that both States and human beings needed for the exercise of freedom, constitutional guarantees must not be restricted, because, when illegal methods were used to fight terrorism, victory was handed to its proponents.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa of Sri Lanka called for the implementation of the United Nations Plan of Action on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons, in order to keep them out of the hands of non-State actors who fuelled the escalation of many conflicts.  As Chair of the Ad-Hoc Committee on Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism, Sri Lanka would also make every effort to realize the international legal framework for the common struggle against terrorism, including the elaboration of a comprehensive convention on international terrorism.

Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the United Arab Emirates, called for the creation of nuclear-weapons-free zones in the Middle East and the Arabian Gulf.  The United Arab Emirates worked with other countries in the Gulf region, as well as the League of Arab States, to support all diplomatic efforts to defuse tensions and end conflict in the region's hotbeds.  At the same time, it supported the right of developing countries to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes under International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards.

Also speaking today were the Presidents of Panama, Maldives, Guatemala, Argentina, Dominican Republic, Benin, United Republic of Tanzania, Namibia, Ecuador, Equatorial Guinea, Albania and São Tome and Principe.

Others speaking today included the Prime Ministers of Italy, Montenegro, Papua New Guinea, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia, as well as the Vice-President of Cuba and the Heir Apparent of Qatar.

Also speaking were the Foreign Ministers of Kuwait, Israel, Belgium, Uganda and Yemen.

The Assembly will reconvene the general debate of its sixty-first session at 10 a.m. tomorrow, Thursday, 21 September.


The General Assembly met this morning to continue the high-level segment of the general debate of its sixty-first session.  (For background, see Press Release GA/10500 of 19 September.)


HAMID KARZAI, President of Afghanistan, said that the Assembly embodied the interdependence of a single community of nations, a vision with strong resonance in Afghanistan, where past troubles and recent accomplishments were, in large part, related to the outside world.  Afghanistan's successes in meeting the milestones of the post-war transition continued with the elections and the inauguration of the National Assembly last year, thus completing the three independent branches of a democratic State.  Schools and clinics were being built to create employment.  Trade within the region and beyond was growing and had doubled the per capita income since 2002.  The international community had approved the National Development Strategy for the next five years at a London conference earlier this year and a Compact had been signed for continued international cooperation.

Unfortunately, he said, all was not good news.  Terrorism saw ultimate defeat in the prosperity of the Afghan people.  That was why clinics had been burned and doctors killed, and 200,000 children who had attended school two years ago were no longer able to do so.  Polio had increased from 4 cases last year to 27 this year because terrorists in the south had prevented children from access to vaccination and health care.  Terrorists crossed all borders and committed horrific acts of violence to try and derail Afghanistan on its path to success.  Terrorists wanted the international community to fail in its collective efforts to help Afghanistan to rebuild.  Unless they were confronted more decisively, they would inflict even greater damage on his country.

"Terrorism does not emanate from within Afghanistan; Afghanistan is its worst victim!" he stressed, adding that military action in Afghanistan alone would not deliver the shared goal of eliminating terrorism.  The sources of terrorism beyond Afghanistan must be destroyed in their sanctuaries.  The elaborate networks that recruited, indoctrinated, financed, armed and deployed terrorists must be dismantled.  Moreover, political currents and entities must not be allowed to use extremism as an instrument of policy.

He said that fighting terrorism effectively in Afghanistan was tied to the fight against narcotics, a menace that fed terrorism and threatened the foundations of legitimate economic development.  That fight was hampered by a lack of an effective security environment for the effort, the absence of comprehensive alternative livelihood programmes and clandestine credit flows to poppy farmers.  Afghanistan was committed to the fight, however, and expected sustained international support in helping to provide meaningful alternative livelihoods.

Welcoming the Assembly's adoption of the comprehensive Counter-Terrorism Strategy, he said he supported the holding of a high-level conference on international terrorism, as well as all initiatives to promote understanding and cooperation among civilizations.  The increasing incidents of "Islamophobia" in the West were troubling.  As a Muslim nation, Afghanistan was interested, not only in safeguarding the holy faith, but also in building bridges of understanding and friendship among all faiths.

MARTIN TORRIJOS ESPINO, President of Panama, said that considerable time and energy had been devoted in recent years to reforming the United Nations, based on the profound conviction that it was an indispensable organization for humanity.  Its critics must ask themselves with absolute honesty what the world would be like without the United Nations.  Governments were the objects of daily scrutiny by their peoples, and they often received severe criticism, but nobody suggested doing away with the Government.  People tried to make Governments better for the same reason that they wanted the United Nations to improve -- because it was equally necessary.  The Assembly had acted with diligence on the reforms agreed at last year's World Summit; the creation of the Human Rights Council was a particular source of pride.

He said that the biggest paradox facing the United Nations was the fact that, where advances had been the greatest, was where advances were still needed most.  Before the inception of the United Nations, however, the violation of human rights had been practically unchecked.  Today, denunciations made at the United Nations had an enormous power of deterrence.  It was true that there had been horrendous violations during the Organization's existence, but no one could deny that the reality was distinct from that which had prevailed only a few decades ago. 

The United Nations and its specialized agencies had before them the great task of coordinating the protection of millions of human beings who lived in poverty, which was a daily denial of man's fundamental rights.  While genocides had provoked the international community's indignation, the poverty that afflicted much of the world's population should provoke equal indignation.  Governments had the moral obligation to help those living below the poverty line.  Economic growth rates were vain, even offensive, if no relief was provided to those who had no chance of breaking out of poverty's vicious cycle.  The reforms under debate should give greater authority to the Assembly to adopt measures of universal scope, not resolutions with no binding power that were repeated year after year.

There was also a need to expand the Security Council to represent the world of today, not that of 60 years ago, he said.  If it was not representative, it could not be legitimate or effective.  Geographical representation was an important factor, but that should not be the only one.  Members of the Security Council did not represent themselves or a geographic region, but rather all Member States.  Developments in the Middle East and terror attacks throughout the world showed the importance of strengthening the Council as soon as possible through a moderate expansion of its membership, while maintaining its legitimacy in the eyes of the international community.  If the Council had had the legitimacy to act in a robust manner, it could have ended the confrontation in Lebanon, or avoided it entirely.

It was important to resolve the crisis in the Middle East, so that Jews and Muslims could coexist in peace, as they did in Panama and many other parts of the world.  Using arms could help some people gain some short-term objectives, but that poisoned the atmosphere.  It was obvious that the conflict required Israel's unconditional withdrawal from the occupied territories, the prompt constitution of the State of Palestine and the recognition of Israel's right to exist. 

He wished to draw the United Nations attention to an event taking place in the coming weeks that would have an impact on world trade; on 22 October, Panama would hold a referendum on whether to expand the Panama Canal.  Since 5 per cent of the world's maritime trade passed through the Canal, its future affected the international community as a whole.  Less than seven years ago, the Canal had been operated by the United States, but after a long and complex negotiation, its management had reverted to Panama.  Since then, his country had administered the Canal with safety and efficiency.  The Canal was the most important resource of Panama's development.  Panama was fully aware that its geographical position was its major asset, but exploiting that asset placed responsibility on the international community.  He welcomed international recognition of Panama's administration of the Canal, and wished to tell the world that the Canal would continue to be managed in a neutral, safe and efficient way for the benefit of the world.

MICHELLE BACHELET, President of Chile, said she was the first woman to have been elected President of Chile, a country that had learned from its history, where today the rule of law prevailed and the rights of persons were respected and promoted.  "My presence before this Assembly is symbolic of this Chile; the Chile that is unafraid to look back at the past and united in building its own future."  The United Nations was a special instrument in the construction of international law and institutions, through which a more integrated world could be built, where large and small could coexist in peace and harmony.  A year ago, agreement had been reached on reform of the Organization, based on development, security and human rights.  "This has been called the millennium of hope.  Let us make this hope a reality, and let us do so from here, from this forum", she urged.

She said development required imagination and political willingness to consolidate the world alliance endorsed by the Millennium Declaration.  That presupposed a more open, transparent and fair commercial and financial system.  "To our developed friends, I say this:  opening your markets to products from the South is a requirement of justice."  Efforts to bring the Doha Round of talks to a successful conclusion, therefore, should be redoubled.  Chile had joined in the Initiative of Action against Hunger and Poverty and had introduced a solidarity tax of $2 on international airline tickets to finance the International Drug Purchase Facility (UNITAID) project.

The most serious failure of the 2005 World Summit had been its silence on the multilateral disarmament agenda, she said.  Her country had joined in efforts to revitalize the disarmament agenda and move towards prohibition of the use of fissile material for military purposes.  Security of States was linked to the security of human beings, as that allowed for the exercise of freedom.  Terrorism negated those freedoms and ran counter to shared values.  "But terrorism must be combated in democracy. Whenever we restrict constitutional guarantees and yield to the temptation to employ illegal methods to fight terrorism, we are handing a victory to its proponents", she stressed. 

She deplored the serious crisis in the Middle East and strongly condemned any armed action targeting innocent civilians.  Self-defence should only be exercised within the framework of proportionality and containment.  The delay in the Security Council's call for a ceasefire in Lebanon was inconsistent with the letter and spirit of the Charter.  She urged the full implementation of Council resolution 1701 (2006), calling on the international community to cooperate in a full cessation of hostilities in the Middle East, to restore Lebanon's sovereignty over its territory and to guarantee Israel's security.

The promotion and defence of human rights and democracy were the cornerstone of her country's foreign policy, she said.  Exactly 30 years ago, the Assembly had received the news that Orlando Letelier, the former Foreign Minister and Defence Minister of Chile's President Salvador Allende, had been brutally murdered in Washington D.C.  Nothing justified the violation of human rights.  Chile rejected impunity.  The promotion of human rights did not contradict the principle of non-intervention in the internal affairs of States.  "As a woman, a physician and the political leader of a developing country, today, I ask that we should choose life, affirm justice, promote social justice and make this noble Organization the common and renewed response to our peoples' dreams of peace development and dignity."

MAHINDA RAJAPAKSA, President of Sri Lanka, said his country's dream of a nation where every citizen could live with dignity, in freedom and without fear was threatened by terrorism, which impeded development, undermined democracy and challenged fundamental freedoms.  His Government was firmly committed to all global efforts to combat terrorism.  Terrorism had become closely intertwined with organized crime, including "people smuggling", trade in illicit drugs, the illegal trade in small arms and money laundering.  As Chair of the Ad Hoc Committee on Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism, Sri Lanka would spare no effort to realize the international legal framework to facilitate the common struggle against terrorism.  Hopefully, the comprehensive convention on international terrorism would soon become a reality.  He also called for full implementation of the United Nations plan of action on the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, as that trade was easily available to arms for non-State actors thereby fuelling the escalation of many conflicts. 

He said his country had personally experienced terrorism, as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) had been terrorizing Sri Lankans for more than two decades.  LTTE devoted its full force to violence, suicide bombings, the massacre of civilians, indiscriminate armed assaults and the conscription of young children for war.  Assurances given to the Secretary-General's Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict had been blatantly violated.  During the presidential election in November 2005, people in certain parts of Sri Lanka had been cruelly deprived of their freedom to vote.  In an act of "ethnic cleansing", more than 60,000 Muslims had been forcibly expelled from their homes in the north.

His Government believed that some of the concerns of minorities in his country were deeply rooted, he said.  They were seeking to address the causes of the conflict through a new approach, with a view establishing a national consensus to achieve an honourable peace in an undivided country.  A consultative process was under way to prepare constitutional proposals to address the minorities' concerns.  He had invited LTTE to participate in the process of seeking a solution to the conflict through dialogue.  He hoped that the international community would continue to extend its fullest support to LTTE's transformation into a democratic civilian organization.  Recognizing that terrorism could not be eliminated through military means alone, his Government remained fully committed to talking with LTTE, either directly or through a facilitator.

He said he was pleased to note that, despite the conflict, the economy of Sri Lanka continued to grow, reaching a rate of 8.1 per cent during the first quarter of 2006, the highest in 28 years.  Sri Lanka maintained the highest rating on the human development index in South Asia, and had achieved some of the Millennium Development Goal targets in primary school enrolment, gender equality, and maternal and infant mortality rates.  His Government had pursued a pro-poor development strategy, with a focus on regionally balanced growth.  In that connection, Sri Lanka sought expanded debt forgiveness, in order to encourage development.  He thanked the United Nations Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery and the Secretary-General for their assistance with tsunami-related rehabilitation.  While his country was well on its way to recovery from that massive disaster, he urged its development partners to stay involved in that long-term effort.

Sri Lanka supported the process of United Nations reform, and noted several important measures adopted since the Assembly's last session, including the establishment of the Human Rights Council and the Peacebuilding Commission, he said.  Also encouraging had been the emergence of general agreement that the Security Council must be strengthened, as it did not reflect current geopolitical realities in Asia, Africa and Latin America.  He looked forward to continued work on Security Council reform to make its composition more representative and its decision-making more democratic.

HUGO CHÁVEZ FRÍAS, President of Venezuela, began by recommending a book entitled Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance, by economist Noam Chomsky, saying it summed up the imperialist strategy of the United States.  It was an excellent portrait of what was happening to the world in which hegemony was threatening its very survival.  It suggested that the United States should look for the enemy at home because that was where the "devil" was; he had come here yesterday talking as if he "owned the world".  The podium "still smelled of sulphur" and an examination of the United States statement yesterday revealed a recipe for ruling the world.

President Chavez said that the American empire was doing all in its power to take over the world, but, if the world were to survive, it could not allow a dictatorship to take over.  Yes, the American President promoted democracy but, it was a false democracy of elites - one that Aristotle would not recognize.  What kind of democracy was imposed with bombs? Mr. Chavez asked.

The American President, like all imperialists, saw extremists everywhere, he continued.  The world was waking up and taking a stand against domination.  The American President had said his people wanted peace, and that was true -- people all over the United States wanted peace, but their Government wanted war.  That President had said to the people of Lebanon that they had been caught in the crossfire of fighting.  He must have been thinking of a shoot-out in a western movie because the people of Lebanon had been bombarded with high-precision missiles.  The President had said he had come to speak to the peoples of the world, but if he had asked those people what they would say if they could talk to him, they would say, "Yankee imperialist, go home".

The present state of the world was based on a United Nations system created after the Second World War, he said.  No one could defend it as effective.  The United Nations must be rebuilt, as outlined last year.  The Security Council must be expanded in both permanent and non-permanent categories; effective methods to resolve world conflicts must be devised; the anti-democratic mechanism of the veto must be immediately suppressed to prevent situations like the bombardment of Lebanon as the world looked on; and the role and powers of the Secretary-General must be expanded.  The Secretary-General had noted yesterday how complex the world had become.  That was the result of the Organization having collapsed.

Venezuela was seeking a non-permanent seat on the Council, and the United States wanted to prevent that, he said.  The United States called Venezuela "an extremist", but it was the other way around.  In its bid for that seat, Venezuela had the support of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), the Arab League, the African Union, Russian Federation, China and many others.  They were supporting, not only Venezuela, but also the truth because Venezuela would speak the truth for all.  The truth was that there was reason for hope because, beyond the imperialist's war, a new era was dawning.  The poverty that imperialism imposed was no longer acceptable to anyone.  The people were rising up and rebelling against the double standards of the United States Government, which condoned terrorism and assassination when it wanted to.

He said that a new momentum had emerged to fight hegemony, at the recent meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement in Havana.  Fidel Castro would head the Movement for the next three years.  Much to the disappointment of the imperialist, Fidel was "back in fatigues and ready to lead".  "We need ideas to save our planet from the imperialist", Mr. Chavez said.  If necessary, the United Nations could move elsewhere.  It would be welcome in Venezuela; everyone would be able to attend its meetings, unlike in his case, where the United States had prevented his physician from accompanying him to the Assembly and had prevented his security chief from deplaning.

MAUMOON ABDUL GAYOOM, President of Maldives, said that the United Nations was at a crossroads, and modernization needed be its top priority if it was to remain relevant.  Drawing attention to Maldives's transition away from least developed country status, he considered the challenges that change would pose to be positive.  Maldives had been the country worst affected by the 2004 tsunami.  While much had been achieved, Maldives still faced big obstacles to recovery, as a result of a $100 million funding shortfall for the repair and reconstruction of housing, transportation, water and sanitation, and environmental mitigation. 

Turning to the situation in the Middle East, he described the conflict in Lebanon as rooted in the Palestinian issue, which needed to be resolved in accordance with international law and relevant Security Council resolutions.  The instability and violence in Afghanistan and Iraq were also of great concern.  He was dismayed by the vilification of Islam and Muslims, and said that violence and killing were abhorrent to Islam.  Dialogue among civilizations and mutual respect among diverse peoples were needed to address today's challenges.

He said that civilization was under serious threat from the effects of global warming.  Small island States like Maldives and low-lying regions were at the frontline of danger from rising seas.  Recent extreme weather events offered further evidence of the devastation that could be caused by climate change.  He, therefore, called upon all countries to adopt urgent and realistic measures to arrest climate change and sea level rise.

ROMANO PRODI, Prime Minister of Italy, said that terrorism and weapons of mass destruction had changed traditional society and its values, rendering obsolete systems of collective defence and security based on deterrence.  The logic of balance and hegemony were no longer enough to guarantee stability and security.  Other phenomena, such as pandemics, problems of development, the gap between North and South and human rights abuses were also impossible to resolve without a collective assumption of responsibility.  No country, however strong and powerful, could take on such complex challenges single-handedly.  Global threats demanded a global response. 

He said that multilateralism should be reinvigorated by restoring the central, fundamental role of the United Nations.  The recent experience in Lebanon and the strengthening of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) had showed how the United Nations could regain its crucial importance in the resolution of international controversies.  Above all, it had demonstrated that, if stakeholders were willing to confer upon the United Nations a strong, central role, the Organization was well able to fulfil it.  To continue the work in Lebanon and to help the United Nations fulfil the principles of the Charter required a quick completion of reforms.

The General Assembly must be restored to its central role as the main decision-making body, and the Security Council's working methods and composition must be reformed, he said.  The role of the great regional stakeholders, starting with the European Union, also needed to be strengthened.  The world and the United Nations did not need a hesitant Europe, but rather one that was able to do its part in facing major challenges.  Europe must become more aware that only by contributing to the resolution of global tensions, could it provide its citizens with greater security and prosperity.  In the work of the Assembly and its various Committees, the European Union was becoming a key actor.  Its goal should be to acquire similar prominence within the Security Council.  Only by wielding a more incisive influence on the issues of peace and security could Europe be considered a true global actor.

He said that the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, particularly nuclear weapons must be seen in the context of the negotiations under way with Iran.  The general non-proliferation system should be consolidated.  In the Middle East, there would be no peace until the Palestinian question had been resolved with an independent, sovereign and contiguous Palestinian state next to the State of Israel, both within secure and internationally-recognized borders.  In Darfur, the world could not stand by and watch the situation unfold.  The United Nations must gradually assume responsibility there.  The situation in the Horn of Africa was also a source of concern.

The gap between the northern and southern hemispheres was at the root of almost all the world's present ills, he said.  That caused massive migratory flows, which could not be ignored.  In the Mediterranean, Italy was working with its partners to facilitate legal flows and to counter illegal flows, and the parties that profited from them.  Italy wanted to build new policies to bring it closer to the countries along the southern shores of the Mediterranean, with the goal of making the sea a basin of peace and harmonious coexistence among diverse civilizations and religions.  The United Nations, for its first part, must keep development at the top of the international agenda.  It was not enough to enunciate before the Assembly, as speakers had been doing for six years now, the words "Millennium Development Goals"; it was important to get to work and carry out those Goals.

MILO DJUKANOVIC, Prime Minister of Montenegro, said that, as the newest Member State of the United Nations, his country was determined to respect and promote the underlying ideas, principles and goals of the Organization.

He noted that the nature of small States was to be more sensitive to the need for tolerance and dialogue, openness and international relations, based on mutual trust, equality and solidarity.  Montenegro promoted those principles best in the recent plebiscite that was organized in full partnership with the European Union, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Council of Europe.

As globalization grew and confronted the world with new challenges and threats of a political, environmental and socio-economic nature, the importance of the Millennium Declaration and the need for common action had become more apparent, he said.  That also underscored the importance of effective multilateralism through the actions of the United Nations, which needed to be reformed in order to adequately cope with those challenges.

He expressed gratitude for the effort and support Montenegro had received from the specialized United Nations agencies, which worked with his country to build stable institutions, which guaranteed the rule of law, freedoms, human and minority rights, as well as solidarity and a market economy.  In partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and European countries, Montenegro was going to construct "eco-buildings", designed to house United Nations agencies operating in Montenegro.  He stressed that this country was ready to fully contribute to the United Nations and to a united Europe.

MICHAEL SOMARE, Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, said that, although the United Nations was the most appropriate body for the achievement of meaningful economic development, respect for sovereignty and the attainment of peace and security, those aspirations had gone largely unfulfilled.  He described a world marked by "an inequitable global trading order, a hostile security environment, wanton globalization and unfettered trade liberalization".  Genocides, wars, disease -- most notably HIV/AIDS and malaria -- and poverty were on the rise around the world, he said. 

Though pleased by the establishment of a Human Rights Council and Peacebuilding Commission, he urged reform of the Security Council, in order for it to better represent today's political and economic realities.  He called for developing countries to exercise leadership themselves and frame a new development round, as the last Doha talks had collapsed.  Papua New Guinea had also already developed a five-year medium-term development strategy, aligned with the Millennium Development Goals, which prioritized rural development, he noted. 

He emphasized the need to address climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as incidents of environmental catastrophes were increasing alarmingly.  On a similar note, it was crucial that the international community protect the tropical rainforests through sustainable and market-based incentives.  With that in mind, Papua New Guinea, along with Costa Rica, and other countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Pacific, had already formed the new Coalition for Rainforest Nations.

ESTEBAN LAZO HERNANDEZ, Vice-President of Cuba, said that the principles of the Non-Aligned Movement must be defended, as President Fidel Castro had said in a speech to that body's just concluded fourteenth summit.  The summit had been an indisputable success; Cuba had been given clear mandates and an action programme for its term as head of the Non-Aligned Movement.  International peace and security were imperilled by the growing trend of the most powerful States to resort to unilateral measures and pre-emptive wars.  Also, globalization, in its current form, perpetuated and exacerbated the marginalization of the countries of the South, demanding a radical transformation, if the process was to benefit all peoples.

Turning to particular regional situations, he said that the Movement had reaffirmed at its summit the right of the Palestinian people to their own State, and had condemned Israel's military actions in Gaza and Lebanon.  Bolivia had received a gesture of support and solidarity against external attempts to destabilize the country.  The inalienable right of the people of Venezuela to determine their own form of Government and choose their own economic, political and social systems was also supported.  The Movement also held that the United Nations General Assembly needed to be given its due decisive role.

Cuba was facing new threats to its right to self-determination from the "Bush administration", in the form of intensified economic sanctions and the provision of material and financial support for subversive actions aimed at overthrowing the Cuban Government, he said.  He pledged, however, that the Cuban people would never be defeated.

He concluded by outlining Cuba's "internationalist" commitment via the work of its doctors in 68 countries, its efforts in several continents to promote literacy, and its assistance to hundreds of thousands of people in many countries to regain their sight.

Sheikh TAMIM BIN HAMAD BIN KHALIFA AL-THANI, Heir Apparent of Qatar, said that his country was a supportive partner of development efforts.  Qatar had hosted the Doha Conference of the World Trade Organization and spearheaded establishment of the South Fund for Development and Humanitarian Assistance.  It had also endeavoured to meet the internationally agreed official development assistance (ODA) target.

He called for a new formula to reform the United Nations Security Council and to update its working methods.  The General Assembly must also be allowed to play its role in maintenance of international peace and security.

Pointing to the conflict in Lebanon, he called Israel's military actions "disproportionate", and the displacement of Lebanon's population a "full-scale war crime".  The Arab-Israeli conflict and the Palestinian question should be accorded top priority.  In addition, Israel must be obliged to implement United Nations resolutions.  In particular, it must withdraw from the Territories it occupied in 1967, including the Syrian Golan Heights and the Lebanese Sheba Farms. 

He reaffirmed the commitment to the unity and sovereignty of Iraq, adding that respect for the right of Iraqis to live in their homeland in dignity and freedom would allow it to rejoin the family of nations.  He also paid tribute to Sudan for realizing peace in the South, noting that it was making sincere efforts to achieve security and stability throughout the country.  He called on the international community to support Sudan's efforts to preserve its unity and territorial integrity.  The efforts of the League of Arab States to achieve reconciliation in Somalia also had his full support, he said.

Sheikh ABDULLAH BIN ZAYED AL NAHYAN, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the United Arab Emirates, said that, despite all the expectations that great progress would follow the recommendations outlined in last year's World Summit Outcome Document, in areas like collective security, development, promotion and protection of human rights, the Assembly was meeting this year with many nations facing extremely serious security, political and economic conditions.  Those challenges had resulted in deepening poverty, further spread epidemics and hampered development.  Indeed, over the past year, instead of devoting attention to strengthening world relations and ensuring that globalization benefited all, the international community had had to direct its efforts towards finding temporary solutions to the grave security threats in various regions.

He said that the major weaknesses demonstrated by some United Nations bodies entrusted with building international peace and security required Member States to reconsider ways to press ahead with broad-based Organizational reform.  Indeed, the main United Nations organs, particularly the Security Council, should be overhauled.  That 15-nation body had recently proved its inability to take immediate and appropriate measures to stop acts of aggression and occupation.  The Member States must ensure that Organizational reform was based on the principles of equality -- in both rights and responsibilities -- to ensure that developing and small countries were represented adequately in the Security Council, in accordance with agreed principles of geographical distribution.  Equally necessary was reform of the Council's working methods, so that that body did not infringe on the functions of the Secretariat, the General Assembly, or the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

The United Arab Emirates, which collaborated with other sisterly countries in the Gulf region, as well as with the League of Arab States, in support of all possible diplomatic efforts to defuse tensions and end conflict in the various hotbeds in the Middle East, reiterated the importance of resolving differences through peaceful means and strengthening confidence-building measures based on the principles of respect for States sovereignty, territorial integrity and non-interference in internal affairs, he said.  With that in mind, his country would demand that Iran demonstrate goodwill towards finding a just and lasting settlement to its occupation of the three islands of the Emirates -- Greater and Lesser Tund and Abu Musa.

He went on to say that the United Arab Emirates supported the right of developing countries to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards.  With that in mind, he looked forward with optimism to the ongoing talks between Iran and the European Union.  The international community must deal with that question in a manner of utmost transparency that ensured the implementation of all relevant United Nations resolutions, particularly those calling for the establishment of nuclear weapon-free zones in the Middle East and Arabian Gulf.  Turning to Iraq, he said his Government supported the political process there, as well as reconstruction and all efforts leading to the achievement of national unity, stability and peace.

The United Arab Emirates was deeply concerned by the continued inability of the international community to solve the Palestinian question and establish peace in the Middle East, he said.  Inaction in that regard had encouraged Israel to continue its occupation of Palestinian Territories, Sheba Farms and the Syrian Golan.  He, therefore, urged the United Nations to respond to the Arab League's recent call for the Organization to play an effective role in reviving the Middle East peace process and resuming direct negotiations on all tracks.

On Lebanon, he welcomed the considerable efforts of the Lebanese Government towards extending its control over its national territories, as supported by UNIFIL.  At the same time, he demanded that the international community intensify its pressure on Israel to fulfil its obligations under Security Council resolution 1701 (2006).  Turning to the Sudan, he said that, following the Council's adoption of resolution 1706 (2006), the United Arab Emirates had hoped that Khartoum would have been given sufficient time to resolve the Darfur question internally.  His country supported the Khartoum Government's efforts to find a lasting solution to that question, and hoped that the United Nations and the African Union would continue to play a positive role in that regard, consistent with efforts made by the League of Arab States, in order to maintain the sovereignty and integrity of the Sudan's territory.

OSCAR BERGER PERDOMO, President of Guatemala, said 2006 represented a new opportunity to assess the Millennium Development Goals, particularly against the backdrop of the fifth anniversary of the 11 September attacks, the tenth anniversary of Guatemala's peace treaty that ended its decades-long internal conflict and the tenth anniversary of Secretary-General Kofi Annan's term.  Regarding compliance with Guatemala's peace accords, the President said compliance was defined as a national commitment.  The country was much more tolerant than in the past, democracy was taking root and the Policy on Rural Development had recently been adopted.  However, much remained to be done, as human rights violations persisted, often linked to increased crime.  Guatemala had invited the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to open an office in his country, and had called for the General Assembly to adopt the Declaration on Indigenous Peoples.

Guatemala's pro-poor policies were consistent with the Millennium Development Goals, especially those relating to poverty, hunger and primary education.  He reiterated the urgent need to renew the Doha Round of trade talks, calling their suspension a serious setback.  United Nations reform was on track, especially with the creation of the Human Rights Council, of which it was a member, and the potential of the new Peacebuilding Commission.  Guatemala supported an expanded Security Council, as it was a candidate for a non-permanent seat in 2007-2008, and was open to any formula capable of achieving consensus.  Guatemala's foreign policy promoted deeper integration with its neighbours and the establishment of a customs union.  He welcomed the Free Trade Agreement with the United States and the expected talks next year with the European Union for an association agreement.  He called for States to become parties to the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families.  Jointly with Transparency International, Guatemala was organizing the twelfth International Anti-Corruption Conference from 15-18 November and welcomed all to participate.

NESTOR CARLOS KIRCHNER, President of Argentina, said his nation's international conduct was inspired by the values of democracy, respect for fundamental human rights and the active defence of international peace and security.  Shared by the majority of Argentines, those principles were guiding the administration and the basis of its foreign policy decisions.  Argentina had always strongly supported reform of the United Nations system, including the creation of the Human Rights Council.  That body's first steps had been positive and he lauded its adoption of the draft international convention on the protection of all persons against enforced disappearances.  He hoped the General Assembly would soon adopt that vital instrument.

He said nations of all size and wealth must understand that the fight against terrorism demanded a multilateral action over time that was based on respect for fundamental rights and the support of international public opinion.  Argentina remained concerned about the hostilities along the Israeli-Lebanese border and would continue supporting a fair solution to Middle East problems, within the framework of resolution 1701 (2006).

Concerning economic growth, he believed each country had the right to follow its own development model, without any external conditions.  The region of MERCOSUR wanted an efficient instrument that would deal with poverty and promote the common good over sectarian interests.  Argentina had registered uninterrupted growth of about 9 per cent since the administration had begun.  With prudent monetary policy, orderly fiscal policy and responsible management of its debts, Argentina was increasingly reducing the economic uncertainty of the past.  There was enough empirical proof of the failure of international financial organizations in the promotion of development in less developed countries.  In many cases, their conditions had actually hindered development.

Argentina was concerned to see the stagnation of the Doha Round of global trade talks and believed it was imperative to reach a balanced conclusion, he said.  All nations must protect the environment and, while developing countries wanted to gain investments and profitable opportunities in the energy, transportation and infrastructure sectors, they did not want investors to carry out activities prohibited in the industrialized nations.  Such activities could profit corporate shareholders, while polluting the environment and hurting the health of local populations.

ROBERT GABRIEL MUGABE, President of Zimbabwe, said that some countries and groups had used illegal economic sanctions to frustrate development efforts - for instance, blocking support for Zimbabwe's economy from the international financial institutions.  He condemned interference in Zimbabwe's domestic affairs by forces in London or Washington, particularly in the form of financial support for political groups.  Never again would Zimbabwe become a colony, he pledged.  Any effort to change the Government would meet the full wrath of the law. 

Zimbabwe sought an agreement on the financing of development from the current session, he said.  He then welcomed the efforts of the international community to find lasting solutions to HIV/AIDS, but the use of assistance in that fight, as a reward for political compliance and malleability, should be condemned, he said, because such an approach would weaken international efforts to fight the pandemic. 

The problem of brain drain was a handicap to sustainable development that minimized the prospect of achieving the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, he continued.  Additionally, the developing countries required a non-discriminatory trading and financial system.  He suspected that the breakdown of the Doha Round of international trade negotiations had been deliberately engineered to perpetuate the status quo.

He then condemned the disproportionate use of force by Israel in Gaza and Lebanon, and the detention of elected Palestinian parliamentarians and ministers.  The United Nations Security Council and the Middle East Quartet were obliged to ensure that the brokered ceasefire would hold. 

It was sad that the Security Council had dithered and failing to prevent the war in Lebanon, and he blamed the misguided national interests of one super Power for that outcome.  He called the status quo in the Security Council no longer tenable, and reiterated the African Union's demand, without compromise, for two permanent seats with veto power plus two non-permanent seats on the Council.  He said that some countries considered themselves superior because of their power, but that was not a consideration under the Charter.  He warned that every Goliath had his own David.

LEONEL FERNANDEZ REYNA, President of the Dominican Republic, said that United Nations reform had to be accompanied by greater democratization, but he lauded the creation of the Human Rights Council and the Peacebuilding Commission.  The reform process would remain incomplete if it did not envelop the Security Council, the body charged with the Organization's political decisions.  The Dominican Republic believed the Council must be expanded, so it more equitably represented the various regions and national interests of the world.

He said that one of his country's great concerns was human security, as the erosion of global security had led to more violence and desperation.  He urged the international community to strengthen mechanisms necessary to halt the modern challenges -- such as drug trafficking and the illicit trafficking in arms and persons - which contributed to fear and restlessness.  The migratory phenomenon, a primary agenda item of this year's General Assembly, was a great ally to the cause of development.  Migration was not an invasion of the poor in the developed countries, but a vehicle used by human beings throughout history to achieve greater levels of stability, liberty and justice.

Concerning the Middle East, he said that recent events had alarmed his nation.  The conflict between Israel and its neighbours could only be resolved through dialogue and the efforts of the United Nations.  The Dominican Republic continued its participation in the peace strengthening process.  It also retained its commitment to the activities of the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW), which advanced the dignity of women in the world.  As host country of that organization, it saluted the Member States' support.

The Dominican Republic applauded the Security Council's recent decision to extend the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) for six months, he said.  His country sought increased international cooperation to preserve the pace of reconstruction of its sister nation.  The warm relations between the two countries were expressed through the Dominican-Haitian Commission, a forum dedicated to issues of common concern.  For its part, the United Nations should seek to achieve a more active, dynamic and effective role in attaining worldwide peace.

BONI YAYI, President of Benin, reaffirmed his country's commitment to the principles of the United Nations, saying also that his country supported a successor from the Asian continent as the next Secretary-General and expressing hope that he would work to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.  Development was at the heart of the United Nations mission.  Efficient and viable reform must ensure that the United Nations provide a framework for development through promoting the well-being of the poorest populations and ensuring the economic growth of the most vulnerable countries, particularly the least developed countries.

It was encouraging that certain donor countries could allocate 0.7 per cent and 0.2 per cent of their gross domestic product to developing countries and the least developed countries respectively, he said.  However, it was important to find new sources of financing.  The mobilization of remittances could be welcomed, in some cases, as a contribution to development actions; however, there was a need to ensure that their impact on poverty reduction was maximized and that they not be considered an official part of Official Development Assistance.

He expressed strong disappointment over the failure of the Doha Round of trade negotiations due to the failure to resolve the question of agricultural subsidies, which were "killing producers in developing countries".  Benin would work to ensure the abolition of them, or find compensation for those hurt.

In 2005, Benin had contributed to the effectiveness of the Security Council in preventing armed conflict.  He said his country would continue its peacekeeping efforts, adding that, "another word for peace is development".

JAKAYA MRISHO KIKWETE, President of the United Republic of Tanzania, said his country's third smooth transition of power was under way and he hoped to spread a message of continuity.  His country had one of the fastest growing economies in Africa, a best practices case for development agenda ownership and could accelerate its pace towards attaining the Millennium Development Goals.  Tanzania had lived up to its commitments under the global compact for development and he called on international partners to do the same. 

But, he said that national success depended on a peaceful neighbourhood and that Tanzania had suffered the consequences of conflict and instability in the region.  He described significant progress in the political and security situation in the Great Lakes region of Africa.  He was humbled to have been a participant in Burundi's peace process and urged free, fair and peaceful elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo's second round of voting.  He further expressed concern for conflicts in Somalia, Cote d'Ivoire and elsewhere on the continent, and believed that the people of Western Sahara deserved as much attention from the United Nations as that received by the people of Timor-Leste.

He said he was pleased to see the ceasefire between Israel and Lebanon holding, but worried about the lack of progress on the Palestinian question.  He repeated Tanzania's resolve to cooperate with others to combat terrorism after the attack on its soil in 1998.  He also noted that the United Nations needed to change with the times and the aspirations of its membership and repeated Tanzania's commitment to the reform of the Security Council to make it more representative and responsive.

HIFIKEPUNYE POHAMBA, President of Namibia, said the fruits of efforts to reform the United Nations could be seen in the creation of the Peacebuilding Commission, the Human Rights Council, the Central Emergency Response Fund and the Ethics Office.  The world had high hopes for those bodies to achieve their mandates.

Expressing concern about the slow pace of progress towards the Millennium Development Goals, he welcomed the commitments made at the Group of Eight (G-8) Summit in Gleneagles to consider increasing development aid to Africa, cancelling debts owed by the poorest countries and promoting universal access to HIV/AIDS drugs by 2010.

He welcomed the recent elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and urged continued support to the people of that country.  The situation in Darfur was a cause for serious concern and he urged a smooth transition to a United Nations Peacekeeping Mission in accordance with Security Council Resolution 1706 (2006).  He also called for a binding international instrument on the tracing of illicit small arms and light weapons.

The rights to self-determination and independence for the people of Western Sahara needed to be upheld and also for the people of Palestine.  He additionally called for the international community to provide humanitarian assistance to the people of Lebanon.  Finally, all Member States should follow their obligations under the Charter and lift the economic, commercial and financial embargo against Cuba.

ALFREDO PALACIO, President of Ecuador, said there was a new concept of international law and relations between people and States in the twenty-first century.  One year ago, Ecuador had voiced the need to move towards a new world order that included three points:  economy, international law and biology.  Never before had there been so much wealth in the world, yet poverty had grown, and life on earth had deteriorated.  Developed countries had not found an adequate answer as millions of human beings were on the brink of extinction throughout the world.  For example, life expectancy was more than 80 years in Japan and Hong Kong, while, in Botswana and Lesotho it barely reached more than 36 years of age.  Greater expenditures were needed to correct the inequalities in health spending.  The Millennium Development Goals were not being met, and developed nations' limited compliance in contributing 0.7 per cent of their gross domestic product to help the poorest countries had an adverse impact.

He said the yoke of foreign debt service had absorbed the domestic savings of developing nations and limited their funds for productive social investment.  Debt refinancing only created a chain of events that shackled development and economic progress.  Ecuador supported the initiative of Jordan to create a group to find solutions to those problems.

War impacted the entire planet and world peace and respect for human rights and respect between States were the founding principles of the United Nations, he continued.  Ecuador supported the efforts of the Security Council and the Secretary-General to bind all opposing parties to comply with ceasefires.  But the Council, which no longer was an expression of the global balance and only represented itself, must be reformed.  At the start of the third millennium, it was inconceivable that the lives of millions of people hinged on the veto of one State or another.  United Nations reform was insufficient.  The World Health Organization (WHO) needed to be strengthened.

OBIANG NGUEMA MBASOGO, President of Equatorial Guinea, said that certain private interests had taken the United Nations hostage.  He stressed the need to reinstate the world Organization's rightfully deserved authority.  Numerous conferences held at different political, economical and social forums had developed various strategies meant to reduce the gap between developed and less developed countries, but those goals had always been met with the complete indifference of those who were supposed to implement them.

It was not surprising that terrorism threatened the world today, he said.  Even though terrorists' methods were condemnable, terrorism remained the recourse of the oppressed and a reaction of those who opposed the present injustices denounced throughout the last quarter century.  The massive migration of peoples from the South to the North was another consequence of the "huge disequilibrium" caused by the present unjust international economic system.  That migration would never cease to exist if the North did not help to develop the South.  He hoped for a more equitable and democratic world, especially to enable the smooth functioning of international relations.  Also crucial was to arrest the illegal exploitation of natural resources.

ALFRED MOISIU, President of Albania, said that during the past year, his Government had undertaken concrete actions, based on the recommendations in the outcome of the 2005 World Summit, to encourage development, security and human rights and promote the ambitious reform agenda of the United Nations.  Towards that goal, the establishment of the new Human Rights Council and the United Nations Peacebuilding Commission raised Albania's hopes that the Organization could press ahead with the necessary reforms that would make it better able to address the challenges of the twenty-first century.  At the same time, Albania believed that management reforms must go farther, with the ultimate aim of strengthening the Organization, ensuring its efficacy and transparency, better outlining responsibilities and duties, and enhancing administration.

He said his country supported efforts to reform the Economic and Social Council and believed that similar efforts to improve the Security Council would soon pick up steam, thanks to the commitment of Member States to see that important issue through.  He hailed last week's high-level meeting on international migration and development, as his Government believed that, properly managed, migration could be a major development tool for both sending and receiving countries.  Emphasizing the important role the United Nations played in the war on terrorism, he praised the recent adoption by the Assembly of a global strategy to combat that scourge and expressed hope that a comprehensive anti-terrorism convention could be elaborated soon.

He went on to say that Albania's foreign policy efforts were based on the standards set by the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).  Just a few days ago, the European Parliament had ratified the Association-Stabilization Agreement of Albania with the European Union, which set the stage for important future events.  Indeed, Albania believed that membership in the European Council and OSCE, as well as accession to the European Union and NATO, were a natural part of his country's overall move towards development.  Albania was also actively cooperating with other countries in the region and had worked with its neighbours to form local strategies to combat terrorism and organized crime, monitor arms flows and borders.  The countries had also undertaken some concrete initiatives to boost economic development.

The main challenge for the region was resolving the issue of Kosovo, he said.  That province had made great progress towards fulfilling the required international standards, improving inter-ethnic relations and founding functioning and efficient central and local institutions.  Kosovo's leadership, opposition movements, civil society and media were all broadly adhering to international and Euro-Atlantic standards, and talks between Pristina and Belgrade were progressing.

Albania would encourage the continuation of constructive dialogue and hoped the Serbian side would demonstrate equal solidarity, he said.  His Government, however, was against any possible measures that would lead to the partition or disintegration of Kosovo, which, in light of the region's history, might lead to future instability or conflict.  Albania supported a quick, comprehensive solution, which took into consideration the will of Kosovo's inhabitants, guaranteed a functioning State, and the freedom of minority communities.

FRADIQUE BANDEIRA MELO DE MENEZES, President of São Tome and Principe, said that never had the world needed the United Nations more than in this time of terrorism and unending conflicts.  Unfortunately, the United Nations had been unable to act easily because internal politics and a lack of resources constantly hampered its ability to respond as needed.  Although countries needed to work together for certain common goals, they must also respect cultural differences.

He said that the HIV/AIDS pandemic had devastated his country, which was helpless in the face of that crisis since it could not afford antiretroviral medications for the sick.  Climate change also sabotaged efforts to achieve sustainable development goals, especially in the least developed countries and small island developing States.  As the polar ice caps melted, his country faced the possibility of disappearing beneath the ocean waves.

He expressed solidarity with Taiwan in its efforts to become a Member State of the United Nations, and expressed gratitude to it for helping to eliminate malaria in São Tome and Principe.  He asked permanent members of the Security Council not to ignore the case of Taiwan and to remember that the principle of universality was consecrated in the United Nations Charter.  He also asked that the embargo on Cuba be lifted.  The membership and institutional structures of the Security Council reflected outdated geopolitical realities and political thinking, and the fact that there were only five permanent members, with Africa not among them, was unacceptable.

Bad governance caused poverty, such as when States did not protect people and property, when national revenues protected self-interested political insiders and when illegal activities were not restrained by law, the press or democratic opposition, he said.  The process of donor assistance to developing countries should be reformed.  Without meaning to do so, multilateral and bilateral donors could make things worse for Governments because badly managed aid projects without transparency and accountability tended to fail.  Humanitarian aid had proven more successful than long-term development aid because it was usually given in the form of medicine, food, clothing or tents, or taken directly to the location of the tragedy rather than to consultants.

JOSEPH KABILA KABANGE, President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, began by thanking Secretary-General Kofi Annan, "a worthy son of Africa", under whose leadership the United Nations had resolved many conflicts.  The Congo had been undergoing a special period in its history, one that had begun in 1990 and would end soon with the establishment of new national institutions.  Its first elections in some 40 years had taken place on 30 July in a climate of peace and transparency, thanks to the will of its people and its bilateral and multilateral partners.  Unfortunate incidents had taken place in Kinshasa on 20 August through 22 August, following the announcement of provisional results from the first round of presidential voting, but the necessary steps had been taken and the electoral process would continue in a relaxed climate and in national harmony.

He said that progress had been the result of a difficult political process initiated after lengthy armed conflict, representing, in humanitarian terms, one of the biggest tragedies in the history of humankind.  The incoming Government would be facing urgent and legitimate demands from the people.  It would have to integrate and reform the armed forces and improve the people's living conditions; it would have to do its utmost in providing health, education, food self-sufficiency, basic infrastructure, electricity and potable water, to say nothing of fighting malaria, HIV/AIDS and poverty; and to fulfil its tasks, it would have to reinforce good governance by combating corruption and pursuing judicial reform.  Realizing that vision would only be possible by mobilizing everybody's energy.  The international community must continue its partnership with the Congo once the new institutions were in place.

Turning to the international scene, he noted the ongoing tension and armed conflicts in many parts of the world, the falling living standards in the developing world, especially Africa, illegal migration, disease, rising crime and terrorism, and the environment.  In the face of such concerns, the General Assembly had organized last year's World Summit to assess progress towards the Millennium Development Goals and other commitments.  That had led to the creation of the Peacebuilding Commission and the Human Rights Council, both of which were fundamentally important.  Implementing the Millennium Development Goals had been a priority for many countries, especially the poorest, and there could be no slowdown in their implementation.

He said that, for his country, other concerns included Security Council reform, clearing the debt of developing countries, increased development aid, the conclusion of a global agreement and strategy on terrorism, armed conflict, collective security and a treaty on forced disappearances.  Those issues posed a challenge to the harmonious community of nations and to future generations.  To effectively address them, all countries must be in solidarity with each other and act in a spirit of true cooperation and humanist justice.  The General Assembly was invited to share the belief that the rebirth of the Democratic Republic of the Congo would prompt a new era of peace, stability and development not only at home, but also in Central Africa and the entire Great Lakes region.

ABDULLAH AHMAD BADAWI, Prime Minister of Malaysia, looking back over the past year, said that, while the international community had faced many trials and challenges, he had personally been most disturbed by flare-ups caused by prejudice.  There had been a basic failure of dialogue, communication and reaching out among human beings.  The greatest discord today was among the followers of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, who all, in fact, shared a common beginning in the religion of Abraham, yet, talked at instead of to each other.  At the same time, dialogue must be accompanied by action.

Any dialogue would fail if it was already predetermined that certain States were "rogue" or that certain countries were "evil", he said, adding that such name-calling provided an excuse not to listen, let alone engage in serious negotiations to find amicable solutions to serious problems.  A blatant example of a refusal even to grant a hearing had been the early decision by many important countries not to recognize or do business with Hamas after that group's assumption of power in the Occupied Palestinian Territory through a properly conducted and democratic election.  External assistance had been stopped and funds blocked.  As a result, millions of Palestinians had suffered for months without pay or food.  "I hope that all sanctions against Palestine will soon be a matter of the past when President [Mahmoud] Abbas succeeds in putting together a coalition Government embracing all the parties in Palestine," he said.

He said that the suppression of the Palestinian people, which was being allowed to fester, the invasion of Afghanistan, the conquest of Iraq and, most recently, the unchecked destruction of Lebanon had all been carried out in the name of the war against terrorism.  Israel's actions were being supported, either openly or tacitly, in the supposed defence of the Judeo-Christian tradition against the spread of radical militant Islam.  That trend apparently legitimized all acts committed in the name of the war on terror, no matter how brutal.  "Even Western commentators have conceded that Israel's latest assault against Lebanon has helped make what may once have been extremist opinions mainstream", he said, noting that the Muslim world certainly saw that complicity as an attempt to humiliate all Islamic countries and societies.

"I believe the schism between the West and the Muslim world will grow even deeper unless the international community is prepared to accept certain facts as the truth", he said, pointing out that the sense of humiliation felt by Muslims was at the root of the lost trust between them and the Judeo-Christian civilization.  Much of the prejudice against Islam stemmed from a lack of understanding of the religion and its importance in the daily lives of Muslims.  With that in mind, the demonization of Islam must end.  The politics of fear must not dictate relations between peoples and nations.

He went on to call for equal dedication to the eradication of political and social injustices, disease and poverty.  Everything must be done to ensure that the impoverished and marginalized also enjoyed the fruits of economic growth, globalization and free trade.  The world was too wealthy to ignore that moral imperative.  History had shown that inequitable and unbalanced economies were unsustainable and that economic collapse often led to social unrest, sporadic violence or even civil war.  While developing countries must do their part to create and maintain environments that promoted socio-economic growth and development, the developed world, given its economic clout, must demonstrate flexibility and goodwill in world trade talks at the present critical juncture, in order to ensure fair and equitable trade for all.

ADNAN TERZIĆ, Chairman of the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina, said that, while his country was an example of the international community's successful intervention, work remained to be done.  Bosnia and Herzegovina was ready to move on from 15 years of trying to stop the war to becoming a stable and prosperous member of the European Union.  Events in the Middle East showed the importance of spreading democracy to the achievement of a just and lasting peace, but countries around the world should also learn from the peacebuilding experience of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Although the Dayton Agreement had stopped the war, it did not provide every citizen with equal rights, he said.  But Bosnia and Herzegovina was making efforts to establish a single economic space, a single judiciary system and a unified intelligence service.  The signing of the Stabilization and Association Agreement with the European Union had been delayed by the coming election but it was to be hoped that the election campaigns would not deal with the past, but look to the future.  Bosnia and Herzegovina kept a close eye on the Kosovo negotiations and hoped they would result in a common future for both sides within the Euro-Atlantic environment, without jeopardizing regional stability.

He strongly supported the international system for universal human rights protection but criticized the United Nations for the decertification of police officers in the country.  Bosnia and Herzegovina was cooperating with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia but it was unreasonable to punish it for the failure so far to arrest Radovan Karadžić and Ratko Mladić.  Bosnia and Herzegovina helped to combat global terrorism and aspired to non-permanent membership of the Security Council in 2010-2011.  Besides its contribution to United Nations peacekeeping missions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Liberia, Haiti, the Sudan, Eritrea and Cyprus, it also had a de-mining squadron in Iraq.

IVO SANADER, Prime Minister of Croatia, said the international order was marked by three extremely demanding and global challenges; global tensions, global imbalances and global constraints.  In that triangle, the world must strive to deliver sustainable solutions and, in order to do so, the Millennium Development Goals as well as other international targets must be implemented.

He noted that the mobilization of domestic resources in developing countries was a necessity, and Croatia supported the commitment regarding the goals and targets of the Monterrey Consensus and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation, as well as such related processes as the Doha Development Agenda and the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness.  It was not enough for the international community to fulfil its obligations by raising the level of ODA and Croatia welcomed initiatives to enhance the quality of aid and to increase its impact.  The needs of Africa, as well as those of countries emerging from conflict or undergoing political transition, must not be forgotten.

But, at all times, global economic and human development must remain the broader focus of the international community's objectives, he said.  Many of today's regional crises caused humanitarian tragedies, terrorism was taking on new dimensions and forms, economic imbalances and social impediments were hampering development and mistrust between religions and cultures was deepening.  All of that had the potential to push people further apart.  Croatia condemned all forms of terrorism and, being particularly concerned with the proliferation of deadly weapons and cyber-terrorism, called for even stronger international cooperation in counter-terrorism.

Turning to United Nations reform, he said that, despite notable progress in some areas, the matter of Security Council enlargement remained to be addressed.  Croatia favoured the expansion of both the permanent and non-permanent membership categories, based on the principle of appropriate regional representation, with two non-permanent seats for Eastern Europe.  "It is of the utmost importance to have, in a new enlarged Council, an appropriate number of representatives of developing countries of the South, and better representation of small and medium sized countries."

MOHAMMAD SABAH AL SALEM AL SABAH, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Kuwait, said 2005 had seen efforts to address factors that threatened international peace and security, such as terrorism and human rights violations.  However, other challenges were also of great concern, such as the incitement of hatred, xenophobia, including Islamophobia, and the incitement of all kinds of racial, ethnic and religious discrimination.  There was also a need to achieve results in the fields of disarmament, non-proliferation, anti-terrorism, international trade and Security Council reform.

He said his country would continue to support developing countries through soft loans from the Kuwaiti Fund for Economic Development.  To date, they amounted to $12 billion and had assisted more than 100 countries.  Kuwait was also gravely concerned about security conditions in Iraq, and called for increased support for the Iraqi Government's efforts to rebuild, confront security problems and achieve national concord among the various Iraqi factions.  Regarding the three disputed Emirati islands, Kuwait supported the position of the Gulf Cooperation Council.

Expressing support for a diplomatic resolution of the Iranian nuclear development issue, he urged Iran to continue its cooperation with IAEA.  The Middle East must be free of all weapons of mass destruction, including Israel, which must accede to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.  Kuwait condemned the creation, through the conflict in Lebanon, of 1 million refugees and welcomed steps to implement resolution 1701 (2006).  Kuwait had announced the donation of $324 million for Lebanon's reconstruction efforts.  Regarding the Palestinian and related questions, Kuwait reiterated its call for both an Israeli withdrawal from the occupied Syrian Golan and the implementation of other relevant Security Council resolutions.  The Arab Peace Initiative was the only strategic option to achieving permanent peace in the region.

TZIPI LIVNI, Vice Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Israel, describing the current conflict in the world as one between ideas, said her country sat on the frontlines of that conflict, guided by the principle that Israel, with Jerusalem at its heart, was the national homeland of the Jewish people, and by democratic governance.

She said the values of democratic nations faced no greater threat than that posed by Iran, which armed, financed and directed Hizbollah, the group that had kidnapped Israeli soldiers and targeted its cities.  Israel called for the full implementation of resolution 1701 (2006) and for the immediate and safe release of Israeli hostages.

Israel's vision of itself and the Palestinian people was one of two States, living side by side in peace and security, she said.  The Palestinian leadership should not exploit the refugee issue, and both States should accept that their rights would be realized through the establishment of their own homeland, not the homeland of others.  The Palestinian State was also required, according to the Road Map, to renounce terrorism, recognize Israel's right to exist and accept Israeli-Palestinian agreements.  Agreement on a common boundary was also required.

Warning that the Palestinian Authority was dominated by a terrorist organization, she said the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was the consequence and not the cause of an ideology of intolerance and hatred.  The Road Map was designed to enable moderation and the world must not hesitate to endorse its standards.  The differences between the parties to the dispute could only be resolved at a bilateral negotiating table.

KAREL DE GUCHT, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Belgium, said the case of Iran and the mediation of the Israel-Hizbollah conflict indicated a rebirth of multilateralism.  International dialogue, rather than the use of force, was again in the foreground of multilateral diplomacy.  However, multilateralism should not be a dogma, but judged by its impact and effectiveness.

He said his country had contributed to the emergency fund to support reconstruction in Lebanon, and sent 400 Belgian "blue helmets" for deployment in the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).  Belgium called for the release of the two kidnapped Israeli soldiers, the release of Lebanese prisoners in Israel, implementation of an arms embargo and the full exercise of sovereignty by Lebanon throughout its territory.  It called also for a resumption of the Israeli-Palestinian dialogue and urged Iran to comply with resolution 1696 (2006), because the world could not afford a major new crisis in the Middle East.

Regarding the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he said there was no option but to complete the electoral process and it was the obligation of the new authorities to prove their commitment to good governance.  Elsewhere, it was feared that the Burundi Government's treatment of the press and political opposition cast a shadow over the recent ceasefire with rebel forces.  It was to be hoped that a frank and open dialogue about that problem would be held in the Peacebuilding Commission.  The United Nations could not lose sight of the way in which power asserted itself in the reality of post-conflict States.  Good governance was at the centre of helping to rebuild capable States.

SAM KUTESA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Uganda, said that ensuring global peace and security would remain an uphill task as long as most developing countries continued to suffer from poverty.  The Millennium Declaration was an important milestone, in that it had introduced a paradigm shift from emphasis on commitment to that of action, paving the way for the establishment of both the Human Rights Council and the Peacebuilding Commission.  But obstacles, including frustration over Security Council reform, had slowed progress.  Expansion remained the most important facet of reform with regard to maintaining global peace and security, and Africa demanded at least two permanent seats on an expanded Council.

Living up to the commitments of the Monterrey Consensus, the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation and the Brussels Plan of Action was necessary in moving the development agenda forward, he said.  Not enough progress had been made on increasing ODA and foreign direct investment, providing debt relief and improving market access.  The stalling of the Doha Round of trade negotiations signalled a lack of good governance and proper coordination in the system.

Turning to Africa, he said NEPAD was the key framework for action.  Uganda welcomed the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in the Sudan and the pursuit of a democratic process in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  In Somalia, the Transitional Federal Government needed international support, as well as a partial lifting by the Security Council of its arms embargo to enable deployment of the Intergovernmental Authority for Development Mission to Somalia and African Union forces.  At home, despite the painful decision to offer amnesty to top leaders of the Lord's Resistance Army, the Government was convinced that the alternative traditional justice system would resolve the conflict equitably.

ABUBAKR AL-QIRBI, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Yemen, said the general debate coincided with a promising democratic achievement in his country; the completion of municipal elections today.

He said the situation in Lebanon, sparked by the aggression of the Israeli war machine and witnessed by the entire world, had caused countless deaths, including the killing of women and children, contrary to international law and the Geneva Conventions.  The international community should hold that war machine accountable for its atrocities and massacres -- particularly "Qana II" -- and demand that Israel withdraw from all Arab territories, particularly in Palestine.  The international community must also press the Security Council to act equitably and fairly to end the Arab-Israeli conflict, otherwise the entire international community would bear the responsibility for the continuing violence and death.

He went on to say that Yemen supported African and Arab efforts to secure peace, security and democracy to Somalia.  The international community should provide support and assistance to rebuild that country.  Yemen also called on the international community to work assiduously to end the clash of religions and cultures, as well as the aggressive demonization of Islam.  The United Nations should rapidly elaborate a definition of terrorism that distinguished between criminal acts and the exercise of self-determination.

On development, he said Yemen was pressing ahead with its poverty alleviation plans, in line with the targets set by the Millennium Development Goals.  Its efforts to provide better education, improved basic services and adequate health care had been undertaken with the full participation of civil society.

Right of Reply

The representative of Iran, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said the Assembly had heard a number of unsubstantiated and absurd allegations by the Israeli representative.  Indeed, it had become a tired practice by the Israeli -- which was founded on bloodshed -- to take advantage of every attempt to disguise its flagrant crimes against Arab nations.  It had never missed an opportunity to divert international attention from its war crimes.  It levelled accusations against Iran as a smokescreen to hide its abrogation of international law and its defiant disregard of international norms.  The Israeli regime continued to pursue nuclear aims, a fact that was not in dispute.  The nuclear danger it posed, coupled with its wicked behaviour, threatened not only the region but the entire world.

Israel and its main supporter were the main stumbling blocks to the establishment of a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the Middle East, he said.  The Israeli regime should face a united front and continued international pressure to relinquish its nuclear programme, and place its existing nuclear weapons under international monitoring structures.  The regime had paid no attention to the constant call of the international community to accede to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, even though the 2005 World Summit Outcome called upon it, by name, to do so.  The statement by the representative of the Zionist regime, which had put pressure on Iran to give up its peaceful nuclear programme, was self-serving, but the wider international community was aware of the ploy.

He went on to say that the representative of the Zionist regime had lectured the Assembly on democracy and terrorism, particularly by saying that terrorism was terrorism, "no matter what else it might be called".  But that representative had said nothing about occupation.  According to Zionist practice, any type of resistance was "bad".  Iran reminded her and her supporters that occupation was occupation and war crimes were war crimes, regardless of what else they might be called.

Responding to "unacceptable claims" made against his country earlier by the representative of the United Arab Emirates, he said Iran's position was well-known and it would not go into details.  It stood behind the Memorandum of Understanding of 1971, and any misunderstanding of that document should be discussed with good will and in the appropriate negotiating forum.  The Iranian Government had always promoted constructive dialogue with representatives of the Government of the United Arab Emirates and believed that any such dialogue would lead to a suitable settlement of the issue.

The representative of the United Arab Emirates said his delegation had always been careful to express its position in principle regarding the three disputed islands, in an attempt to uphold its national sovereignty.  The presence of Iran on those islands amounted to an illegitimate military occupation that violated the United Nations Charter and international law.  The Government of Iran had been invited to submit the matter to the International Court of Justice and to enter into peaceful bilateral negotiations with the Government of the United Arab Emirates.

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