22 September 2006

Addressing General Assembly, Lebanon's President Questions Credibility of Security Council for Failure to Quickly Stop Fighting between Israel, Hizbollah

Leaders Stress Need for Security Council Reform to more Effectively Secure Peace, Promote, Rule of Law

NEW YORK, 21 September (UN Headquarters) -- Criticizing "certain great Powers" for allowing Israel's war with Hizbollah to practically destroy his country, Lebanese President Emile Lahoud today questioned the Security Council's legitimacy, and urged the wider international community -- led by a genuinely reformed United Nations -- to end inertia, excuses and conditionality in Middle East peacemaking.

"It becomes self-evident for us to question the credibility of the United Nations …we cannot but have serious doubts as to this Organization's ability to safeguard world peace, when its resolutions are subjected to the vagaries of a very few world Powers," said Mr. Lahoud, telling the General Assembly's annual debate that, for more than a month, the Security Council had looked powerless to stop the fighting between Israel and Hizbollah in Lebanon and, when it had finally adopted resolution 1701 (2006), all the 15-nation body could muster was a mere "cessation of hostilities", rather than a comprehensive ceasefire.

Nevertheless, it was time to ask Israel, which owed its existence to a United Nations resolution, to fully abide by resolution 1701, he said.  While Lebanon had deployed soldiers to its southern border, Israel had breached the Council's edict "daily", had imposed a "humiliating siege" on Lebanon and refused to withdraw from the Shebaa Farms.  Asking the General Assembly to stand by his country, he said Lebanon retained the right to prosecute Israel before competent bodies, including the Assembly or an international tribunal.

But, despite events in Lebanon, a window of opportunity had been opened and it ought to be fully exploited, in order to reinvigorate the wider Middle East peace process.  The 2002 Arab Peace Initiative remained the best way forward, as it called for implementation of all United Nations resolutions pertaining to Israel's withdrawal from occupied Arab lands and the return of Palestinian refugees.  On United Nations reform, he proposed the creation of a commission to lay the foundations of a "Charter of the Rights of Nations", on par with the human rights charter, which would impose on Member States "a code of conduct" founded on the principles of justice and the rule of law.

President Lahoud was among several world leaders today calling on the United Nations and its most powerful organ, the Security Council, to work more effectively to secure international peace, promote the rule of law, and support Governments struggling to hold their countries together in the aftermath of conflict, civil strife or political transformation.  Also, leaders from the Balkans emphasized strengthening relations between neighbours as an essential way for countries of that region to consolidate the peace achieved over the past decade and continue their fight against such problems as organized crime and corruption.

"It is unfortunate to see that international plans and initiatives, foremost among them the Road Map [plan for Middle East peace] endorsed by the Security Council, have reached a state of stagnation and even regression", said the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, who also noted that calls for the resumption of negotiation were faced with preconditions.  Meanwhile, despair and frustration thrived with the roar of bulldozers building illegal settlements and erecting the apartheid separation wall inside occupied land.

In such a climate, how could the international community expect extremism to retreat or the waves of violence to ebb? he asked.  How could leaders convince the public that the option of negotiation and international legitimacy would be fruitful and have a real chance of success?  He called upon the international community, particularly influential Powers, to provide tangible evidence that they would support the unconditional resumption of negotiations and would ensure their success through the cessation of settlement activity, collective punishment and separation walls.  That would provide a positive atmosphere for launching negotiations and achieving a just peace based on a two-State solution.

Noting that the Israeli Government had pledged to abandon its policy of unilateralism, he said: "This is encouraging, provided that the alternative is not stagnation but a return to the negotiation table to reach a comprehensive solution."  Of his own office, he said he sought to establish a Government of National Unity consistent with international and Arab legitimacy that corresponded to the principles established by the diplomatic Quartet.  Any future Government would commit to imposing security and order, to ending the phenomena of multiple militias, indiscipline and chaos, and to strengthening the rule of law.  Stressing that he wanted Jerusalem to be the meeting point for dialogue of all prophets, to be the capital of two neighbour States that lived in peace and equality, he added: "Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand."

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe Vélez, who stressed that his tough-minded "democratic security" policies had reduced crime and violence associated with Colombia's conflict with armed drug-traffickers and gangs, wondered why there was not less rhetoric and a more effective commitment from the international community to help Colombia overcome the scourge of coca.  Indeed, despite the substantial international media coverage of violence in Colombia and constant criticism of the Government, there had been little support to overcome the challenges, he added.

The international community must urgently call on violent groups to make peace without further delay and provide decisive support for his country's security policy, he said.  Under that policy, 40,000 members of violent groups had been demobilized; however, reintegrating them remained a monumental task.  Amid understandable controversy, his country had made progress in dismantling irregular forces.  Illegal self-defence groups had seemed, until two years ago, like powers greater than the State, he said.  Today, the vast majority were demobilized, and their leaders were being held by Colombia's justice system.

He went on to highlight the success of an alternative development project, the "Forestkeeper Families Program", through which 43,000 rural families had replaced drug cultivation with forest protection, the growing of alternative crops or eco-tourism.  With greater international support, that programme could be expanded to reach some 120,000 families, which would ensure the protection of a larger swath of the Colombian jungle, he said, calling on the United Nations to help Colombia find ways to be more effective.

Pierre Nkurunziza, President of Burundi, said that, despite emerging from a situation of post-conflict, his country had made progress in the current phase of reconstruction. Peace and security were of primary concern, he noted, while expressing gratitude to the United Nations force in helping implement the Arusha Accord.  Integration in Burundi was on the right track, and 5,000 weapons had been voluntarily returned in the last three months.  With the expansion of political liberties, increasing freedom of the press and a 20 per cent monthly increase in State income, Burundi's reconstruction was indeed moving forward.

Burundi also saw the need for regional initiatives, he added.  He hoped for a successful election in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and welcomed the signing of a ceasefire in Uganda.  However, he was still concerned about the situations in the Horn of Africa, Darfur, the Middle East and Côte d'Ivoire.  Those conflicts, in addition to the issues of terrorism, the spread of disease -- notably HIV/AIDS and malaria -- and nuclear disarmament, were all of primary concern for the United Nations, he said.

Branko Crvenkoski, President of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, said there was no substitute for dialogue in resolving outstanding issues between countries in the region.  He said Macedonians were focused on carrying out the necessary reforms that would allow the nation to become a member of the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) as soon as possible.

Turning to Kosovo, he voiced support for the work of the United Nations Special Envoy Martti Ahtisaari and his team on the talks between Pristina and Belgrade about the status of the province.  "Every effort should be made to achieve a negotiated settlement mutually acceptable to the parties", he said, adding that he also wanted the demarcation of the border between his country and Kosovo to be resolved first.

Serbian President Boris Tadić told the Assembly that the issue of Kosovo's permanent status must be approached "on the basis of recognized principles of international law and universal democratic values", or the region would not avoid "the vicious circle of old animosities and mutual recriminations".  He said Kosovo Albanians had autonomy from Serbia that was "broader than any currently enjoyed by any region or a federal unit in Europe", and recommended that this situation continue.

He added that there must be "an end to seven years of discrimination against the Serbs, as well as other non-Albanian communities", before Kosovo's status could be determined.  The Serbian leader also emphasized that, unless they improved their levels of cooperation, countries of the Balkans, which had been beset by war during the 1990s, would struggle to make progress in joining the European Union, NATO and similar groupings.

Also speaking today were the Presidents of Malawi, Mozambique, Madagascar, Comoros, Senegal, Lithuania and Andorra.

Others taking part in the general debate were the Prime Ministers of Canada, Portugal, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Mauritania, Lesotho, Samoa, Slovakia and Mongolia, as well as the Vice President of Sierra Leone.

Also speaking were the Foreign Ministers of the Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Netherlands, Australia, Austria, Spain, Egypt, Mali, Niger and Angola.

The General Assembly will reconvene the general debate of its sixty-first session at 10 a.m. tomorrow, Friday, 22 September.


The General Assembly met today to continue the general debate of its sixty-first session.  For background, see Press Release GA/10500 of 19 September.


BINGU WA MUTHARIKA, President of Malawi, said the first challenge for a system of global partnership for development was to eradicate the poverty that engulfed the human majority.  It was gratifying that the Group of Eight (G-8) countries had committed themselves to the effort.  Since peace, security and stability were impossible with the major part of the world population living in abject poverty, those who had wealth should learn to share.

He said his country's situation was a good illustration of how the global partnership framework would function to achieve faster and sustainable economic growth.  Priorities had been set out in Malawi to fast-track socio-economic growth.  But, since everything was a priority in a poor country, a system of "priorities within priorities" had been devised for the next five years in the key sectors that would pull the people out of poverty.  Those were food, water, transport and communication, energy, rural development and HIV/AIDS.  Malawi was open to partnerships in all those areas.

He said the area of agriculture and food security had been given the highest priority because it was the mainstay of the economy and the intention was to build a "hunger-free" nation.  Towards that end, the government was assisting smallholder and peasant farmers to increase productivity by providing cheap fertilizers and high-quality farm inputs.  That would provide food security, while, at the same time, expanding the agro-processing industries to give added value to products.  Likewise, the plan was to find international partners for developing the irrigation and water system to reduce the dependence on rain-fed agriculture.  Small, medium and large-scale irrigation schemes were being considered, along with multipurpose dams.

Continuing, he said the area of transport and communication infrastructure was essential to allow growth through trade, and was a good area for partnership.  A project to open access to the Indian Ocean through the existing Shire and Zambezi Waterway would benefit all the countries of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).  Partnerships were also sought for developing reliable energy and promoting the integrated rural development plan through Rural Growth Centres throughout the country, each centred on a good tarmac road and equipped with piped water, electricity, a police station, a bank, post office, hospital, school and community hall.  That programme would reverse rural to urban migration and would be useful for delivery of social services.  Finally, largely through the Global Fund, Malawi had made strides in managing HIV/AIDS.  However, more international involvement was needed.

In closing, he said partnership had allowed Malawi to reach the completion point in the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Debt Initiative and he was grateful to the G-8 for spearheading the commitment that had started the country on the road towards economic recovery and sustainable development.  And, on a matter germane to global partnerships, Taiwan should be readmitted as a United Nations Member State, particularly in light of Montenegro having just been admitted.  To start, it should be given observer status.

BORIS TADIĆ, President of Serbia, began by thanking the Secretary-General for his efforts during a time of enormous challenges facing civilization and, particularly, for his exceptional understanding of the problems facing South-Eastern Europe.  He also welcomed the accession of Montenegro as a new Member State of the United Nations.  Serbia sought to make a significant contribution to the region in terms of fast democratization and respect for human rights, economic development, the security of the Balkans and the stability of South-Eastern Europe.  Instead of being a place where problems were created, Serbia and the Balkans must become a place where problems were resolved peacefully, he said.

A better future for the region should be founded on three major principles: democracy as a guarantor of human freedom and basis of economic progress; security of each State as a precondition of security of the entire Balkans; and regional stability as a vital factor of global peace and prosperity.  Serbia was committed to the territorial integrity of all Balkan States and the preservation of their existing borders.  Strengthening regional cooperation was also a priority, he said, noting that only by working together could the Balkan countries achieve their primary foreign policy goal of European Union and Euro-Atlantic membership.  The fight against organized crime, corruption, and international terrorism also demanded active cooperation, and his Government would soon host a meeting of Heads of State in South-Eastern Europe in Belgrade on the issue.

He noted that Kosovo and Metohija was currently under United Nations interim administration.  The settlement of Kosovo's future status was one of the most difficult problems facing Serbia, Balkan countries and the international community -- as well as Albanian and Serb people in Kosovo, he said.  It was in the interest of Serbia that Kosovo be stable, prosperous, economically viable, multi-ethnic and democratic.  Before determining Kosovo's future status, it was crucially important to establish the rule of law there and put an end to seven years of discrimination of the Serbs, as well as of other non-Albanian communities, who suffered as the target of extremism and terrorism.  The autonomy offered by Serbia to Kosovo Albanians was broader than any currently enjoyed by any region or federal unit in Europe, and would provide a sustainable, stable and long-standing solution.  It would, among other things, allow Kosovo direct access to international financial institutions, which was necessary for its economic recovery and development.

Serbia was genuinely committed to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, technological advancement and economic prosperity.  His government also supported efforts to strengthen United Nations peacekeeping, and stood ready to contribute to those operations.  Further, Serbia was prepared to deal with the burden of its recent past in the interest of its Balkan and European future, and was firmly committed to cooperation with The Hague Tribunal.  That was not merely its international obligation, but a question of the country's moral values, he said.

ALVARO URIBE VELEZ, President of Colombia, recalled that, when he had addressed the General Assembly four years ago for the first time, he had announced that his country was beginning an era of "democratic security".  Security was a democratic value, without which freedoms could not prosper and investment would not flow.  Over the past four years, Colombia had held four general elections and countless local elections.  The presidential and congressional elections held earlier this year had been among the most peaceful in decades, despite the high threat of terrorism.  His country's security had contained terrorism, in order to give democracy free expression.

There was more to be done to strengthen security, and a definitive peace was not yet within reach, he said, but progress was undeniable.  The effective protection of Colombians meant a reduction in the number of homicides, kidnappings, terrorist acts, crimes and threats against journalists and trade union leaders.  All governors and mayors exercised power in their own jurisdictions, overcoming the nightmare of exile to which they had been subjected as a result of terrorist actions that were not countered by the State.  Security would be strengthened by improving its effectiveness and transparency, and by guaranteeing respect for human rights.  He noted that, while the public security forces had grown by 30 per cent and military operations tripled, complaints against the security forces were down by 38 per cent.  His country operated with a full, internal democracy, open to supervision and international criticism, as reflected by the presence of an office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Organized violence under fictitious political pretexts was terrorism, and security was the path to peace, he emphasized.  Pursuing a policy of democratic security, 40,000 members of violent groups had been demobilized.  Reintegrating them, however, remained a monumental task.  Amid understandable controversy, his country had made progress in dismantling irregular forces.  Illegal self-defence groups had seemed, until two years ago, like powers greater than the State.  Today, the vast majority were demobilized, and their leaders were being held by Colombia's justice system.  Among guerrillas, the number of demobilized exceeded the number killed by the security forces.

The international community must urgently call on violent groups to make peace without further delay and provide decisive support for his country's security policy, he continued.  Illicit drugs as a bottomless source of financing for violent groups was the main obstacle to peace.  He expressed anguish over the fact that there had been little progress so far in the fight against illicit drugs, despite government efforts, including the extradition of citizens, confiscation of illegal wealth, and massive manual eradication.  Curbing production and consumption required a global commitment that transcended formal declarations.

He highlighted the success of some alternative development projects, such as the "Forestkeeper Families Programme", through which 43,000 rural families had replaced drug cultivation with forest protection, the growing of alternative crops, or eco-tourism.  The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime had reported that drugs had been eliminated in 80 per cent of the area covered by the forest-keeper families, involving more than 2 million hectares.  Greater international support would allow the program to be expanded to reach more than 120,000 families, which would ensure the protection of a larger swath of the Colombian jungle.  He asked the world why there was not less rhetoric and a more effective commitment to helping Colombia overcome the scourge of coca, and asked the United Nations to help his country find ways to be more effective.

Colombia was committed to achieving the Millennium Development Goals, he said, noting that poverty was down from 60 per cent of the total population in 2002 to 49 per cent in 2005.  His country would do everything possible to ensure that poverty did not exceed 35 per cent in 2010, and to reach the goal of 15 per cent by 2019.

EMILE LAHOUD, President of Lebanon, said he had come before the General Assembly representing his "ravaged" country.  From 12 July to 14 August, Lebanon had been subjected to "a barbarous aggression and to a rarely seen campaign of savage dismemberment" that saw bombs fall, mostly on civilians, and destroying all that made Lebanon a viable State.  "This was a premeditated Israel sentence to destroy my country and everything it stood for …This aggression became even more cruel when it won the tacit approbation of certain great Powers."

He regretted that the Security Council had looked powerless to stop the fighting, as it had taken more than a month to achieve a "mere" cessation of hostilities.  He said: "It becomes self-evident for us to question the credibility of the United Nations …Moreover, we cannot but have serious doubts as to this Organization's ability to safeguard world peace, when its resolutions are subjected to the vagaries of a very few world powers."

He said it was time to ask Israel, which owed its existence to a United Nations resolution, to fully abide by Security Council resolutions.  While Lebanon had deployed soldiers on its southern border, Israel had been "daily" breaching resolution 1701 (2006), imposing a humiliating siege on Lebanon and refusing to withdraw from the Shebaa Farms.  Israel had been treating the Lebanese people as "hostages", kidnapping scores of its citizens, in breach of Resolution 1701.  It also refused to give to the United Nations maps of the landmines it had laid on Lebanese soil.  He hoped that the United States would not use its veto in the Security Council to forestall an indictment of Israel's use of "smart", cluster, phosphorous and depleted uranium bombs.

He said Lebanon retained the "right of action" to prosecute Israel before competent bodies, including the General Assembly or the international tribunal.  He asked the Assembly to stand by his country, and "to differentiate between him who defends his country against Israeli aggression and occupation …and those elements who perpetuate acts of wanton slaughter against their countrymen and others equally".  Lebanon had been left "scarred and terribly afflicted", with thousands of its people killed or injured.  But, the will of its people to live and move foreword was strong, and it would beat the odds towards a stellar rebirth.

He said that no permanent and comprehensive peace in the Middle East could be achieved without addressing the Arab-Israeli dispute and its core issue of Palestine.  Despite events in Lebanon, a window of opportunity had been opened, and it ought to be fully exploited in order to reinvigorate the peace process.  The Arab Peace Initiative that came out of a Summit in Beirut in 2002 remained the best way forward, as it called for implementation of all United Nations resolutions pertaining to an Israeli withdrawal from occupied Arab lands and a return of Palestinian refugees.  Only such a settlement could give Lebanon and its neighbours the stability they longed for, and give Israel a sense of security.  It would also end "the haemorrhage in the Palestinian territories" and foster moderation where despair had bred extremism and violence, notably in Iraq.  If that conception of peace in the Middle East were to become a reality, the need for conferences, studies and discussions of terrorism would become moot.

On reforming the United Nations, he proposed the creation of a commission to lay the foundations of a charter of the rights of nations that would be on a par with the human rights charter.  It would impose on Member States "a code of conduct" founded on the principles of justice and the rule of law.  In conclusion, he said Lebanon remained a peace-loving nation, and it extended its hand to all who shared its peaceful vision, founded on a just settlement that would remove the seed of oppression and violence.

ARMANDO EMILIO GUEBUZA, President of the Republic of Mozambique, said that, despite the international community's efforts, developing countries still found themselves in a vicious cycle of dependency and vulnerability.  That plight undermined efforts to achieve sound economic growth and to fight, more vigorously, such diseases -- as malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.  Developing countries had, more often than not, been powerless to mitigate the impact of natural disasters and environmental degradation.

Given the global nature of the challenges, there was no choice but to weave together national, regional and global partnerships, he continued.  As a result, the Monterrey Consensus, the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation and the Millennium Declaration had all been adopted, with the expectation that partnerships for development would be forged.  Regrettably, little had been achieved.   He described several Government attempts at partnership -- such as the Second Action Plan to Eradicate Absolute Poverty -- and said his country's open and inclusive governance would hold the partnerships together.  They would also be sustained for the collective commitment of stakeholders to reduce absolute poverty in Mozambique from 54 per cent in 2003 to 45 per cent in 2009.

Regarding regional cooperation, he noted that SADC and the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) had been instrumental in promoting political, economic and social integration of countries and would continue to serve as road maps to prosperity in the region.  Mozambique had already made progress on the Millennium Development Goals, he noted, but would still need substantial and timely support from its development partners.  He also stressed the need for United Nations reform in order that its intergovernmental nature would be safeguarded.

BRANKO CRVENKOVSKI, President of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, said that allowing terrorism to continue making people live in fear would be a failure on the part of humanity and the United Nations.  It was "high time" the United Nations adopted a unified strategy on terrorism and, as such, his Government had already adopted the comprehensive Counter-Terrorism Strategy.  He also stressed the need for the United Nations not to be "shy", but rather to react and respond appropriately to the changes and challenges of today's world.

Regarding the crisis in the Middle East, his Government was in full support of resolution 1701.  He also expressed concern about the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan, however, and his Government had, therefore, joined the international antiterrorist coalitions for both countries since their inceptions.

As a stable and multi-ethnic democracy, his country had over the last year launched reform projects that would continue to bring them closer to the European and NATO alliances.  In December last year, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia had been granted candidate status for European Union membership and he believed its commitment to needed reforms would lead to the opening of negotiations on membership.  In that regard, good neighbourly relations and cooperation in South-Eastern Europe continued to be a top priority for his Government.  Though his country was in full support of the United Nations Special Envoy's work in Kosovo, he urged that the issue of the demarcation of his country's northern border on the Kosovo section be closed before reaching a decision on Kosovo's final status.

PIERRE NKURUNZIZA, President of Burundi, said that, despite emerging from a situation of post-conflict, his country had made progress in the current phase of reconstruction.  Peace and security were of primary concern, he noted, while expressing gratitude to the United Nations force in helping implement the Arusha accord.  Integration in Burundi was on the right track and 5,000 weapons had been voluntarily returned in the last three months.  With the expansion of political liberties, increasing freedom of the press and a 20 per cent monthly increase in State income, Burundi's reconstruction was indeed moving forward.  The Government had also enforced a law counteracting corruption, which would lead to greater transparency.

He urgently appealed to the United Nations to prioritize gender equality, as his Government saw it as vital in the alleviation of poverty.  Regarding peacebuilding, he stressed that sport be an important factor in its achievement.  A decade of war had left hundreds of thousands displaced and over 400,000 refugees.  In response, Burundi had submitted an emergency program in February targeted at donors.  However, Burundi required more than an emergency program, and a donors round table had been organized for November, when he hoped more assistance from longstanding and new development partners alike would be generated. 

Burundi also saw the need for regional initiatives, he added.  He hoped for a successful election in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and welcomed the signing of a ceasefire in Uganda.  However, he was still concerned about the situations in the Horn of Africa, Darfur, the Middle East and Côte d'Ivoire.  Those conflicts, in addition to the issues of terrorism, the spread of disease (notably HIV/AIDS and malaria) and nuclear disarmament, were all of primary concern for the United Nations, he said.

MARC RAVALOMANANA, President of Madagascar, said it was clear that the Millennium Development Goals could not be reached in sub-Saharan countries without concerted effort.  It was a sad reality that Africa received less international assistance per capita than 20 years ago.  The recent focus on Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestine question had left Africa in the shade.  Africa was not a priority for international authorities.  He reminded Member States that the Millennium Development Goals had been established together and that achieving those goals was a common task, which would affect the destiny of hundreds of millions of human beings.  There was a paradox between "what we preach and what we do", he said.

The idea of "one world", the foundation of globalization, could not take the international community towards a fair and peaceful future as long as many poor countries were still marginalized, he continued.

Industrialized countries had asked developing countries to specify the Millennium Development Goals and prepare road maps for achieving them.  While that was fair and understandable, the role of the industrialized countries was not to play referee, assess the players and distribute red cards.  All countries, developed and developing alike, must play together and keep the same goal in mind.

His Government had developed the Madagascar Action Plan through discussions across 22 regions of the country with representatives from private and public organizations.  The plan was based on his country's own vision and on the Millennium Development Goals.  When presenting the plan to donors, he said it was necessary to decide together how many men and women could be pulled out of poverty, how many children could have a better education and how many children could be saved by providing them with safe drinking water and vaccines.  Hunger, misery and disasters knew no borders and should be part of a shared responsibility, he said.

He called for international assistance for the development of Africa to be doubled or tripled in the short term.  While there were numerous reasons why sub-Saharan Africa had not experienced economic growth in the last few years -- including internal conflict, lack of good governance and instability -- the main reason was the reduction of international assistance per capita over the past 20 years.  To become independent, developing countries needed more international assistance.  Greater investment in education, infrastructure and health would lead to stronger economic growth.  He noted the success of the Marshall Plan and of the huge investments of the European Union in the new member States.

He stressed "country ownership" of programmes, as people in developing countries knew their own problems well and were ready to take on their responsibilities.  The programmes of donors should be integrated with national programmes.  Where there were weaknesses in national capacity, the transfer of knowledge was as urgent as the transfer of funds.  The transfer of the rules of good governance, standards of education and infrastructure were essential.  In addition to technical knowledge, values and the concept of professionalism must also be shared, he said.  Financial assistance must reach the grass roots.

Good governance and democracy were crucial for development, he said, noting that Madagascar would hold free and fair elections on 3 December 2006.

STEPHEN HARPER, Prime Minister of Canada, recalled that the United Nations was born from the essential needs of nations for stability and security, and the ideals of freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.  He cited Afghanistan as "a key area where global interest and higher purpose come directly together".  The United Nations had a responsibility to defeat terrorism, and that was why, "with unity and determination", it had undertaken its mission in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan was the venue of the United Nations single largest special political mission and Canada's biggest and most important overseas engagement "by far", he said.  No fewer than 19 United Nations agencies were in Afghanistan, along with 20,000 troops from 37 countries, including 2,500 from Canada, helping to stabilize Afghanistan and to "eliminate the remnants of the Taliban regime once and for all".  All civilian and military actions in Afghanistan had been taken in accordance with the mandate of the Security Council.  He said:  "We all stand together with the democratically elected Government of Afghanistan under the banner of the organization that represents our collective will."

He said the challenges facing Afghanistan were "enormous" and that there would be no quick fixes.  Success could not be assured only by military means.  There had to be a strong and unwavering civilian contribution, too, with educators, engineers, elections advisers, direct aid and technical assistance.  That was why Canada was engaged in such tasks as rebuilding girls' schools and had increased its development assistance to Afghanistan to nearly 1 billion Canadian dollars over 10 years.  While progress was being made, however, it was not yet irreversible.

Canadians were on the front lines in Afghanistan and felt pride in their leadership role.  "We are, therefore, acutely aware that the United Nations job in Afghanistan is not done.  We have no illusions about the difficulties that still lie before us.  Difficulties don't daunt us.  But lack of common purpose and will in this body would."  He went on:  "If we fail the Afghan people, we will be failing ourselves.  For this is the United Nations strongest mission and, therefore, our greatest test.  Our collective will and credibility are being judged.  We cannot afford to fail.  We will succeed."

The United Nations faced other challenges, he said.  In Haiti, where Canada had sent troops and civilians to support the United Nations mission and had offered 100 million Canadian dollars in economic aid, the United Nations had to ensure the way forward for stability and progress.  Darfur was a significant challenge and a test of its responsibility to protect, but he asked, would the Sudan accept a United Nations mission there?  In the Middle East, Canada had joined the international community in rebuilding Lebanon, but would the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) ensure Israel's security and lead to progress in the Middle East peace process?  Nuclear proliferation threatened all, but would the United Nations be prepared to ensure that Security Council resolutions were fully implemented, and would it act to halt activities that had no other purpose than to acquire nuclear weapons?  Would the new Human Rights Council be a forum where human rights were genuinely put above political manoeuvring, or would it emulate its failed predecessor?

On reforming the United Nations, he said the Organization had to become more accountable and more effective.  Management reform had to continue at an accelerated pace.  Taxpayers had a right to expect stronger, more independent oversight, more robust accountability and merit-based staffing practices.

JOSE SOCRATES, Prime Minister of Portugal, said that it had been on Secretary-General Kofi Annan's watch -- and with his indispensable help -- that the world had seen the birth of the new State of Timor-Leste, one of the great victories of the United Nations.  The United Nations had carried out a crucial task in helping maintain peace, consolidate the rule of law and create the foundation for a prosperous future.  There was still a long path to travel, but it was important that the Timorese people be aware they could count on the United Nations.  The recent crisis had raised serious questions about security and the United Nations mission in Timor-Leste was, thus, to be applauded, as it represented the continuity of the significant investment made by the international community.

Despite undoubted successes, however, the United Nations had also missed opportunities and could not repeat those mistakes.  Many accused the Organization of undue complexity and excessive bureaucracy.  But, there was no alternative to multilateralism, and the United Nations would have to play a determinant role in that.  The world was full of threats that no country could face alone.  If the world did not join forces, it was halfway down the road to failure.

He cited the crisis in the Middle East as one of the biggest challenges.  In full support of resolution 1701, his Government would fulfil its duty to help with its urgent implementation, including participation in UNIFIL.  Regarding Africa, he stressed that Africans and Europeans bore joint responsibility in improving peace and security, good governance, human rights and regional trade and integration.  His Government had also pledged its full commitment to the Millennium Development Goals in Guinea-Bissau last July, where the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries had celebrated its tenth anniversary.

RALPH GONSALVES, Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, said humanity's condition today was difficult and the quest to mend the broken world was grounded in the ideals at the core of the United Nations.  The ideal was not a world of perfection, but one of civilization over barbarism, humanity over inhumanity.  The world looked to the United Nations as its hope, particularly the majority of inhabitants who happened to be poor and disadvantaged amidst an orgy of plenty.  It was both necessary and desirable for that message to be delivered to "power" by a small developing Caribbean country on behalf of the world's marginalized.

The 80 per cent of people residing in the developing world, and all right-minded people, wanted coherent leadership from a reformed United Nations true to its mandate to serve humanity well, he said.  The reform was moving at a snail's pace, which frustrated work, undermined efficacy and damaged credibility.  Too much time was wasted on fussing over esoteric issues concerning the so called mandate review and management reform, rather than focusing on the critical matter of implementing the Assembly's development resolution.  The world's disadvantaged looked askance at a United Nations that sought to choreograph the dancing of angels on the head of a pin, and they cared little for bureaucratic harangue about enhanced coherence.  The world's people wanted to see practical evidence that the United Nations was purposefully tackling such issues as global poverty, climate change and the need to provide clean water and adequate food.

He said many, if not most, Governments of the rich and powerful countries showed signs of fatigue and disengagement towards the developing world, judging by their parsimony on official development assistance (ODA) and their failure on the Doha Development Round.  More must be done there.  And that stricture was aimed at the Governments of those countries, not their people.  Evidence showed that many, if not most, of the people of the rich countries were sensitive to the concerns of the developing world, but their Governments did not sufficiently reflect that.  Therefore, peoples and civilizations must link across national borders in a tighter bond, with or without mediating formal apparatuses.  The proposal for a United Nations alliance on civilizations held immense promise, provided it was not captured by States hankering after an "ignoble, unattainable, unsustainable and fundamentally immoral" hegemony.

While many rich countries turned aside from the developmental thrust of the world's marginalized and disadvantaged, he continued, an encouraging trend was occurring with South-South cooperation, as through the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and friendly countries.  Next year would be the bicentennial anniversary of the act that had abolished the British trade in African slaves to the Caribbean and the Americas, a practice that had been a monstrous crime against humanity and an exercise in genocide unmatched in the history of the western world, a fact that European nations and their North American cousins still refused to sufficiently acknowledge.  There had been no apology and no recompense in the form of reparations.  The issue must be put on the United Nations agenda for a speedy resolution.

Further, he said, the item on the enslavement of Africans must be linked with the genocide of indigenous peoples of the Caribbean, including the Callinago and Garifuna of his country.  It should also be linked with the wholly wrong and inhumane exploitation by colonialism and imperialism of indentured labour from Africa, Madeira, India and China after the abolition of African slavery.  Europe had much to answer for on these matters.  Historic wrongs not made right remained scars on the soul of oppressor and oppressed alike, he said.

Few tragedies of the modern world touched the human spirit like that of the condition of people in Darfur and Palestine, he said.  The time had come to resolve those conflicts and others, including in Lebanon and Western Sahara, keeping in mind the powerful lesson of history that oppression did not endure and the people's right to self-determination must be fully respected.  The restoration of democracy in Haiti was welcome, the election of the new President a strong rebuke to the administration installed by imperialism and to those who mistakenly believed the dangling of money was everything.  Finally, Taiwan, as a democratic country of 23 million people and a legitimate political expression of the Chinese civilization, must be accorded its rightful admission to the United Nations.

SIDI MOHAMED OULD BOUBACAR, Prime Minister of Mauritania, welcomed the creation of the Human Rights Council and the Peacebuilding Commission, saying it would improve the ability of the United Nations to tackle two of the world's biggest concerns.  The response to the pressing issues of development, security and peace hinged on solutions to address violence and terrorism.  Just as terrorism had become universal in nature, so it had to be addressed with a global vision underpinned by understanding and dialogue between civilizations and nations which reject confrontation and marginalization.  Mauritania rejected terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.  It has remained attached to its Islamic values of tolerance, which rejected violence and extremism and called instead for solidarity and understanding.

He said negotiations on the basis of international resolutions, the Arab peace initiative and the "Road Map", were the only way to end the Middle East conflict, guaranteeing an Israeli withdrawal from all occupied Arab lands in Palestine, Syria and Lebanon and allowing the Palestinian people to enjoy their legitimate rights, starting with an independent State with Jerusalem as its capital.  Concerning the Western Sahara, Mauritania supported the steps undertaken by the United Nations and its Secretary-General towards a lasting solution that would guarantee subregional stability and enjoy the support of all stakeholders.  In Iraq, Mauritania welcomed the success of the Iraqi Government in putting State institutions into place.  It insisted on the unity of the Iraqi people, Iraq's territorial integrity and independence, and non-interference in Iraq's internal affairs.

Since 3 August 2005, Mauritania had embarked on a new era in its political history, one that would open the way to a pluralist democratic system based on guarantees of equality and justice for all, and which would enshrine the peaceful transition of power, he said.  A programme of action for justice and democracy had been initiated with the participation of all sectors of society.  For elections to take place with complete neutrality and transparency, the Military Council for Justice and Democracy had decreed that its members -- the President, the Prime Minister and members of the Transitional Government -- would be ineligible to take part in future elections.  Mauritania wanted to sincerely thank all fraternal and friendly countries and international bodies for supporting its democracy process and reforms and helping them through all stages in their history.

Mauritania had unswerving faith in building an Arab Maghreb region, he said.  This it regarded as a non-negotiable strategic choice.  It was also profoundly attached to the spirit of brotherhood and solidarity within Africa, and to dialogue between civilizations, particularly through the "5+5 Forum" and the Euro-Mediterranean Barcelona process.

Great changes on the international scene had called for reforms to the United Nations, he said, including a more dynamic General Assembly, a reactivated Economic and Social Council, and increased representation within the Security Council, taking into account not only major regions of the world such as Africa and Latin America or important country groups, but also industrialized countries which have made major contributions to the Organization, such as Germany and Japan.  The Security Council also had to improve its methods of work, in order to ensure peace and security throughout the world.

AHMED ABDALLAH SAMBI, President of the Comoros, announced that for the first time in its 30 years of independence, his country had held free, peaceful and transparent presidential elections, thanks to friendly countries in the United Nations and the African Union, in particular South Africa.  He also thanked bilateral and multilateral partners for their help during the national reconciliation process.  The people of the Comoros hoped to see an end to the hellish cycle of coups d'état that had spoiled their daily lives over the last

30 years.  He hoped he could find ways and means to improve the socio-economic situation and to create conditions conducive to investments.  His Government was resolutely committed to fighting corruption, establishing an independent judiciary and improving the socio-economic situation.

He said the situation in the Middle East remained critical.  He questioned the grounds for which the war in Lebanon had been waged and deplored the innocent blood that had been shed in the country and the region.  It was high time for the international community to ensure that a negotiated solution would see the light of day.  The situation in Iraq remained disastrous and denying the growing number of deaths each day was absurd.  In Africa, instability and the risk of war persisted in countries such as Chad, the Sudan and Côte d'Ivoire.  The issue of the Moroccan Sahara must also come, through the United Nations, to an adequate and legal solution. 

Armed conflicts necessarily resulted in millions of displaced persons, economic havoc and irreversible economic damage, he said.  The enormous efforts of the international community to ensure that dialogue prevailed over forced destruction, in which the Organization played an irreplaceable role, should therefore be appreciated.  However, there was a paradox.  At a time when scientific and technological developments would allow for considerable progress, millions of individuals did not have enough to eat and lived in a state of abject poverty.  Famine and pandemics covered the earth.

He said the root causes of those problems were two-fold.  The first was national governance.  In many of the poorest countries, injustice, corruption and lack of respect for human rights were rife.  The second was international governance.  In order to achieve peace, to prevent and resolve the conflicts and ills besetting the world, those root causes should be addressed.  It was also crucial to combat environmental pollution and pandemics such as AIDS.

The Comoros had entered into a new period, he said.  It was among the poorest countries, in spite of its natural resources and the strategic position it occupied the Strait of Mozambique.  Since independence, political instability had been one of the factors that had made the country the poorest.  A far-reaching plan had been developed in order to provide shelter, to establish a judiciary to ensure the rule of law and to fight unemployment and poverty.  He called upon the international community as a whole to continue to provide its aid and assistance to his country.

ABDOULAYE WADE, President of Senegal, lauded measures to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, including the cancellation of multilateral debt of 18 least developed countries and the creation of an airline tax as a new source of development financing.  He hailed the roles of President Jacques Chirac of France and President Lula da Silva of Brazil in promoting the latter effort.  The problem of debt in Africa remained a hindrance to development, and he advocated an "X-ray" of each country to help solve the problem.  The failure of the Doha round of trade negotiations revealed how much progress was needed to ensure that trade was as profitable for large agribusiness as it was for small coffee planters alike.

He said that if the trend of dizzying oil prices continued, countries' economic and social development would be wiped out.  Senegal had taken up the challenge with the Association of Non-Oil Producing African Countries to promote biofuels.  Africa had incomparable advantages in that sphere and could become the world's first biofuels producer.  The launch of that "green energy revolution" was in line with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol.

In Africa, the President commended progress in achieving democracy and dispute settlement, but noted that "hotbeds of contention" remained.  In the Sudan, his country would work for the expansion of the peace, so that those left out of the process could adhere to the Abuja Agreement.  In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he welcomed the holding of electoral operations last July, and hoped that, on 30 October, the Congolese people would come together again to realize the potential for peace.  In Côte d'Ivoire, political leaders must move beyond their differences to achieve peace.

The recent High-Level Dialogue on Migration and Development had highlighted the scope of clandestine immigration, which needed a multilateral solution, he noted.  Senegal, seeking to boost the strength of its Coast Guard, had signed an agreement with Spain for that purpose and would do so with France next week.  Senegal had also adopted the principle of "zero clandestine immigration".  On United Nations reform, he applauded the creation of the Human Rights Council and had high hopes for the Peacebuilding Commission.  He also called for a seat with a right to vote on the Security Council.  Concerning Palestine, Senegal would see to it that the United Nations continued to work for a durable end to the conflict.  He also advocated dialogue, without prior conditions, with Iran.

VALDAS ADAMKUS, President of Lithuania, said that his Government was committed to the work of the new Human Rights Council and described the Peacebuilding Commission as helping post-conflict countries to avoid slipping back into chaos.  But, political will was needed to support such institutions.  He also described Lithuania's lead of a provincial reconstruction team in Afghanistan, saying that the challenges ahead in that country required increased focus and efforts on the ground.

He called for the effective promotion of a comprehensive peace plan in the Middle East with Security Council resolution 1701 (2006) and major donor conferences offering hope for Lebanon.  He also called for completion of a comprehensive convention on international terrorism and saw an alliance of civilizations as the way to build upon common humanity.  Also crucial was the strengthening of the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) safeguards system, alongside compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and relevant Security Council resolutions.  But, broader security concerns also needed to be considered, such as climate change, energy security and dire water or food shortages.

The world must be as firm in fighting poverty and upholding dignity for the individual as it was in fighting terrorism, he stressed.  He described Lithuania's commitment to the Millennium Development Goals as a new donor nation, adding that reforming the United Nations was a necessity because millions of people worldwide had nothing else to protect them.  Security Council reform was particularly vital, and he called for better representation on the Council by a member of the Eastern European group, adding that the group could also offer an excellent candidate for the next Secretary-General.

PAKALITHA BETHUEL MOSISILI, Prime Minister of Lesotho, said that the delay of the Security Council in acting on the Israel-Lebanon conflict had demonstrated its inadequacy, which, in turn, had lent credence to the need to reform that body.  The African group's position had never made more sense than it did now, he added. 

He said that the African Union's resources and capacity to resolve conflicts were limited, and that, the United Nations, particularly the Security Council, could not afford to be helpless spectators to another genocide.  He called for the United Nations to work with the African Union in finding solutions to the crises in Côte d'Ivoire and Somalia.  Regarding Somalia, he said the arms embargo on the Transitional Government needed to be lifted so it could function.  He hoped the second round of elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo would proceed successfully.  He, meanwhile, commended the people of Burundi on their recent peace agreement, and congratulated the Government of Uganda for taking the initiative to find a political solution to the war with the Lord's Resistance Army.  He also expressed solidarity with the struggles for self-determination by the peoples of Palestine and Western Sahara.

He described the establishment of the Human Rights Council, the Peacebuilding Commission and the Central Emergency Response Fund as timely events.  The ability of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs to respond to countries facing major disasters could be attributed to that Fund, and he hoped that it would live up to expectations.

He said that the issue of development deserved the undivided attention of Member States.  He sought a consensus at this session to hold a review conference of the implementation of the Monterrey Consensus.  He also warned that the Millennium Development Goals could not be achieved by 2015, unless several steps were taken: a doubling of ODA; linking all initiatives of NEPAD with the Millennium Development Goals; and complete cancellation of debt for all least developed countries.  He described the suspension of the Doha Development Round as disquieting.  Also impending development was the HIV/AIDS pandemic, for which words must be followed by concrete actions.

He said that he also regretted the paralysis that had befallen the United Nations disarmament machinery.  He warned particularly of the effects of that stalemate on the control of the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, which remained the weapons of choice in many conflicts and violent acts.  Such weapons were so cheap that, in some villages, they could be traded for chickens.  The failure to agree on a definition of terrorism was no excuse for failing to decisively confront that scourge.  Finally, he hoped a solution could be found to the Iran issue, which would avert sanctions and guarantee that country's peaceful nuclear programme.

TUILA'EPA SAILELE MALIELEGAOI, Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Samoa, said that, one year ago, the Summit Outcome Document had been adopted.  In less than 12 months, the "rhetoric" had been transformed into "reality", among other things, through the establishment of the Human Rights Council and the Peacebuilding Commission, implementation of credible reforms and adoption of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.  It was imperative that, at the early stages of their work, those bodies immediately adhere to the guiding principles of respect, integrity, credibility and professionalism to ensure that the objectives of relevance, efficiency and transparency were delivered.

He said that development, security and human rights were the three interconnected pillars of the United Nations.  Development frameworks, such as the Brussels Programme of Action for Least Developed Countries and the Mauritius Strategy for small island developing States, provided for global partnerships towards the achievement of sustainable development in small and vulnerable economies.  Through its development strategy, his country looked to partnerships for the effective delivery of programmes that addressed major health challenges, such as HIV and AIDS and the threat of avian bird flu.  He could not overemphasize the importance of global actions to control and limit the availability of small arms and light weapons.  Those weapons, in the hands of the wrong people, could easily destabilize communities and plunge small nations into deadly conflict.

Samoa was both a least developed country and a very small island developing State, he said.  There had been a proposal for Samoa to be graduated from the list of least developed countries, however, the vulnerabilities and the fragility characterizing the economy had not disappeared.  It would take just one devastating disaster to wipe out the modest achievements.  He, therefore, requested that Samoa's graduation from the list of least developed countries be deferred and then reconsidered when Samoa had met the graduation threshold for the Economic Vulnerability Index.

He said it had become evident that many of today's challenges had significant global dimensions.  Those "problems without passports" included climate change, epidemics, humanitarian concerns, conflict containment, security concerns and terrorism.  The successful resolution of those challenges required the collective and concerted effort of the whole United Nations membership.  No country was immune from terrorism.  It should be reiterated that terrorist acts committed under whatever pretext or purpose could never be justified as morally acceptable.  Nor did countering terrorism not confer immunity form the rule of law or the abandonment of the principles of civilized society.

Climate change issues remained a priority for the Pacific region.  In its small islands, natural catastrophes could devastate an entire country.  The need for good early warning systems in the Pacific region, therefore, was a priority.  His country would continue to strongly support international and regional efforts to combat global warming and environmental degradation as the evidence of global warming and its causes were well established.  Apportioning blame and "point scoring" should no longer be allowed to deflect efforts at effective and collective responses.  Concerted action should be taken much earlier as further delays would simply make the size of the problem greater and the solutions more costly, he said.

ROBERT FICO, Prime Minister of Slovakia, said his country fully associated itself with the statement delivered earlier by the President of Finland on behalf of the European Union.  He said his Government was committed to a foreign policy that emphasized effective multilateralism and promoted democracy, international peace and security, and greater respect for human rights.  Slovakia was focused on building a social State where economic growth accompanied social cohesion, solidarity and the improvement of life for all.  Slovakia was committed to the Millennium Development Goals and would be gradually increasing its aid to developing countries.  Increases in official development aid must be paired with the strengthening of democratic governance, rule of law and the fight against corruption.

Today's major challenges, which included ethnic conflicts, weak and failed States, genocide, complex humanitarian disasters and environmental degradation, called for a shared responsibility and demanded solutions that crossed national boundaries.  Slovakia was a strong believer in multilateralism and viewed it as a guarantee of security, equality and justice.  Governments did not have to be uncritical fans of the Organization to realize that a stronger multilateral system with the United Nations in a central role was necessary.  He noted that, even as talk about the Organization's crisis intensified, the demand for field operations and its role in crisis management had sharply increased.

As a strong supporter of United Nations reform, he said he believed Governments should build on the reform process, including the creation of the Peacebuilding Commission, the adoption of a counter-terrorism strategy and management reform.  He particularly welcomed the creation of the Human Rights Council as a step towards the goal of three equal Councils that embodied three equal United Nations pillars.  A priority of Security Council reform should be increasing its capacity to take decisive actions early enough to prevent conflicts.  It needed to become more representative, more effective and more transparent.

On the topic of world conflict, Slovakia remained concerned about the situation in the Middle East, especially Lebanon and the Palestinian territories, as well as the situation in Darfur.  The international community needed to intensify its efforts to ensure that the Government of National Unity of the Sudan gave its consent to the planned transition to a United Nations-led operation in Darfur.  The global community had the responsibility to act collectively through the Security Council to prevent another Rwanda or Srebrenica.  On the future of Kosovo, Slovakia believed in a settlement through direct talks, dialogue and compromise from both Belgrade and Pristina.

Slovakia was deeply concerned about the nuclear programme of Iran, which should comply with Security Council resolutions and all relevant decisions of the IAEA, like any other United Nations member.  He regrettably acknowledged that Secretary-General Kofi Annan had been correct when he said in May that the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) regime "faces a twin crisis - of compliance and of confidence".  The 2005 NPT Review Conference had not provided the guidelines needed to address challenges to the non-proliferation regime.  Governments needed to restore confidence through compliance with all relevant obligations and commitments made.

MIYEGOMBO ENKHBOLD, Prime Minister of Mongolia, said that the implementation breakthroughs required to achieve the Millennium Development Goals had not yet been produced.  He then described the steps taken by Mongolia to achieve the Goals, including the institutionalization of the Goals in its law; the adoption of a ninth Goal that highlighted the link between development, good governance, human rights and democracy; quick impact measures on poverty reduction and income generation; and an emphasis on education and health in human development policy.  He also noted that the overall tax burden had been eased, in order to create a favourable business environment.

But, he worried that Mongolia would not be able to meet the goals of halving poverty and achieving environmental sustainability on its own, requiring partnership and cooperation with bilateral and multilateral donors, international financial institutions and the private sector.  He called for tailoring grants and loans to the Millennium Development Goals and said that, as a landlocked developing country, Mongolia required commodity price stabilization tools and a "shocks" facility.  The Doha Development Round also needed to be revived to create a more favourable and just trading regime.

He explained that Mongolia had endeavoured to promote democratic values as chair of the fifth International Conference of New or Restored Democracies.  This year also marked the 800th anniversary of the establishment of the Great Mongol State.  He concluded by stating that the next Secretary-General should follow through on bold initiatives and reform actions; possess strong managerial skills, vision and experience; and could be found from Asia, which was home to half of the world's population.

SOLOMON EKUMA BEREWA, Vice President of Sierra Leone, called for the United Nations reform process to be speeded up and for the Security Council to be made into a just, democratic and representative body with proportional membership for States, and permanent membership for Africa with its 53 States.  He also recalled that his country was a least developed country emerging from a devastating conflict, concerned with the fact that, development was not treated with the prominence and urgency it deserved in the reform process in light of its impact on conflict and human rights.

Welcoming the new Human Rights Council, he said the Peacebuilding Commission was of particular interest to Sierra Leone, as a post-conflict country.  As his was one of two countries selected for initial operations, steps had already been taken towards peacebuilding and consolidation through carefully formulated policies and activities to achieve the lasting peace, security and stability that were the critical requirements for meaningful development.  A Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper had been developed and had attracted support.  A peace consolidation strategy paper on governance and security would be presented to the Commission prior to the 2007 presidential and parliamentary elections.

He said the United Nations Integrated Office had been supporting Sierra Leon's post-conflict recovery programme, since the peacekeeping mission had ended in 2005.  The people were proud of their role in resolving their conflict and of progress towards democracy.  The 2002 successful election, a mere five months after the conflict ended, was followed by local elections.  The elections next year would mark a leadership transition.  Sierra Leone could not afford to have it go wrong and needed assistance to ensure it went right.

Concluding, he said the country was faced with three sets of challenges as a nation.  It had to rectify the accumulated errors of past policies, repair damages and scars left by conflict and chart an appropriate path for development of a country in the twenty-first century.  The natural resources to have done all that were available.  Human resources would measure up with time and with the sustained engagement of international partners, particularly if efforts to pursue durable peace in the West African subregion also continued to reinforce the peace.

BAN KI-MOON, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade of the Republic of Korea, said that, since the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, the United Nations had played an increasingly indispensable part in international counter-terrorism efforts.  Agreement on a comprehensive convention on international terrorism, which had remained elusive, must be achieved.  Meanwhile the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, adopted by the General Assembly's sixtieth session, should guide efforts to free the world from the scourge of terrorism.

He said that the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction posed an equally unacceptable threat to peace and security.  Undermining the credibility of the nuclear non-proliferation regime should not be permitted.  More countries should be encouraged to sign and ratify the IAEA Additional Protocol.  An early start of negotiations on a fissile material cut-off treaty and the early entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban-Treaty (CTBT) should also be supported.  He said that the nuclear and missile programmes of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea constitute a serious challenge to the non-proliferation regime, as well as to regional security.  His Government supported Security Council resolution 1695 (2006) which, among other things, demanded that that country suspend all activities related to its ballistic missile programme.  He urged it to refrain from any action that might aggravate the situation and to return to the six-party talks without precondition.

Meeting the Millennium Development Goals by the year 2015 was a "tall order", but it should not be forgotten that the United Nations was a beacon of hope for a better life for the neediest members of humanity, he said.  The target of 0.7 per cent of gross national income for development assistance, reaffirmed at the 2005 World Summit, formed the cornerstone of his country's strong commitment to achieving the Millennium Development Goals.  Innovative sources of financing, such as the airline ticket solidarity fund, should be further explored, but that should not, however, be a substitute for existing ODA.  His Government had launched "Korea's Initiative for Africa's Development", as part of its commitment to doubling overall ODA.  The key lesson to be drawn from the Korean experience was that education was the key to development, and women and girls were the most effective agents of change and social progress.

The urgency, complexity and scope of the three pillars of the United Nations work -- peace and security, development and human rights -- demanded the highest standards of efficient, effective and accountable management, he said.  The United Nations machinery must be streamlined, priorities must be reorganized and redundancy minimized.  The General Assembly should give positive consideration to steps to make the Secretariat more mobile, integrated and multi-skilled, he added.

SERGEI V. LAVROV, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, said that multilateral diplomacy remained the only means of tackling existing problems.  Progress had been made since the 2005 World Summit, including the creation of the Peacebuilding Commission and the Human Rights Council.  However, patterns that excluded States from meaningful participation in activities, or introduced a single value system into the work of the Secretariat were unsustainable.

The Russian Presidency of the Group of Eight (G-8) had seen enhanced interaction between the United Nations and leading countries.  In the last year, dialogue partners had contributed to the St. Petersburg Summit documents in all key areas.  A new collaboration between the G-8 and Africa was emerging.  The Shanghai Cooperation Organization had launched an initiative to create a Partnership Network for Multilateral Associations in the Asia Pacific Region, as development in that region would largely determine the future of the world.

In Europe, there was a growing awareness that security and prosperity were indivisible.  NATO was expected to emerge as a contemporary body able to meet principles of transparency and collective response based on a universal legal foundation.  In the area of international law, the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy was important and would help pave the way for a comprehensive anti-terrorism convention.  The International "Moscow-1, Paris-2" Conference had seen the approval of measures to counter the terrorism-related drug threat.  Another forum in Moscow next November would focus on developing modalities for Government-to-business partnerships in that area.  The country called for consistent implementation of resolution 1540 and other counter-terrorism resolutions of the Security Council.

On peacekeeping issues, a more active role in operations taken by African countries was encouraging.  On the Arab-Israeli conflict, the Minister welcomed the prospect for the gradual resumption of Palestinian-Israeli talks.  Regarding Lebanon, the initiative of the League of Arab States to convene a conference should help find parameters, and the Quartet should also make a key contribution.  He noted that settlement in Iraq is only possible through involvement of all Iraqi interests.  Regarding strategic arms, the country supported a United States-Russian Federation bilateral disarmament process, and entry into force of the Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty.  In the social and economic sphere, the country had written off or undertaken to write off $11.3 billion of African countries' debt, including $2.2 billion within the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Debt Initiative.

BERNARD RUDOLF BOT, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, renewed his call of last year for intensified dialogue between nations at all levels of their societies.  Acts of terrorism were crimes against humanity under international law, and he saw a need for great determination to defend the democracy, fundamental freedoms, human rights, and the quest for progress.  An emphasis on development, fair trade, and dialogue was required to give people better lives and prevent them from being lured by hatred to commit acts of terror.  Counter-terrorism efforts, however, must not be at the expense of human rights and values.  He called for an international convention to fight terrorism.

He said the need was great for interfaith and intercultural dialogue, and personal endeavours were crucial to finding common ground.  Respect for diversity required freedom of religion and belief, but also, the right to change one's belief, as underscored in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  The separation of Church and State, independence of the judiciary, and freedom of expression was linked to the protection of freedom of religion.  Any limits on the freedom of expression must not go beyond what was necessary within a democratic society.

There were reasons for optimism about peace in the Middle East, and the new UNIFIL was a symbol of hope, he said.  He hoped United Nations peacekeepers would also be deployed in Darfur, and noted that the Netherlands was considering contributing to the maritime component of UNIFIL.  He called on Syria and Iran to act in accordance with Security Council resolution 1701 (2006), and sought serious dialogue by Israel, Palestine and Syria, as well as the outline of a comprehensive Middle East settlement by the Quartet.

Finally, he underscored the need for the United Nations to manage, rather than lag behind change.  To renew and reinvigorate the Organization, he sought "less red tape and more synergy", noting as an example, that there could be one body in place of the 38 humanitarian and development agencies that now existed in the United Nations systems.  He called for a pragmatic approach to Security Council reform, and for an alignment of reform agendas, overall.

ALEXANDER DOWNER, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Australia, recalling that, on the day before the fifth anniversary of "9/11", Hakim Taniwal, the Governor of the Paktia Province in Afghanistan had been killed.  A few days later, a second suicide bomber had attacked Mr. Taniwal's funeral ceremony.  Afghanistan represented a fundamental test for all.  If the country was not resolutely and steadfastly supported against the scourge of terrorism, a far less secure and stable world would be delivered to the coming generations.  Iraq was another front in that battle.  The extremists had chosen to make Iraq a battleground.  If terrorism prevailed, the consequences would be catastrophic for each and all.  The challenge was not just to keep citizens safe from terrorist attacks, it was also to defeat an ideology that allowed for no ideas or belief systems other than its own.

Welcoming the United Nations global strategy to counter terrorism, he said he was disappointed that its list of conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism did not include extremist ideologies.  It was also disappointing that the United Nations still could not agree on the scope of a comprehensive convention on international terrorism.  More disturbingly, some countries continued to sponsor terrorist groups.  In the Middle East, it was essential that all countries, including Iran and Syria, used their influence over such organizations as Hizbollah to stop terrorist assaults.  The United Nations had a role to play, but the Organization was not the answer to all the problems of the world.  Where the United Nations could not act, individual States must.

He said that, in his region, practical and effective cooperation had exemplified the counter-terrorism response, including through a regional training centre jointly established by Australia and Indonesia to help South-East Asian law enforcement develop the capabilities needed to destroy terrorist networks.  Practical and effective cooperation had also been the hallmark of Australia's commitment to Timor-Leste, where Australian Defence Force personnel and police had worked with counterparts from New Zealand, Malaysia and Portugal to restore order after the April riots.  His country had also joined in a partnership with 14 other Pacific countries in a regional assistance mission to Solomon Islands.  Much more remained to be done, but headway was being made.

In contrast, the tragedy of Darfur posed a grievous challenge to the international community, he said.  So far, the United Nations had failed, but the Organization must keep its promise to the people of Darfur.  There were also the immense challenges of development.  Australia had committed itself to doubling its annual aid budget to about $4 billion by 2010.  Economic growth was central to poverty alleviation.  Likewise, free and open trade and investment was pivotal.  The failure of the Doha Round would be a cruel rebuff to the world's poor.  Economic development without protecting the environment was not possible.  The great challenge was to address climate change without jeopardizing economic growth.  Collective action must entail much more than adopting resolutions and signing treaties.

URSULA PLASSNIK, Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs of Austria, recalled that the European Union's motto was "United in Diversity" and emphasized her Government's consistent attempts to translate that principle into practice.  She said that after decades of division, Europe was growing together again, thanks to major achievements on the part of the European Union.  "We have come a long way…the Iron Curtain is a relic of the past.  Today, we want the countries of South-Eastern Europe and the Balkans to take their rightful place in Europe, to include them in the re-unification process of our continent", she added.

At the same time, she acknowledged that difficult issues needed to be solved, noting that tomorrow the Security Council would discuss the future status of Kosovo.  Austria supported the efforts of Mr. Ahtisaari and the United Nations Office of the Special Envoy for Kosovo team in Vienna.  As neighbours and friends, Austria urged both Belgrade and Pristina to engage in the negotiations constructively and in a results-oriented manner, as well with the necessary sense of realism.  "Our goal is a democratic and multi-ethnic Kosovo whose citizens could all live in security and dignity on the basis of mutual trust", she said, adding that a confident, peaceful and prosperous Serbia, fully integrated into the family of European nations, was crucial for the stability of the whole region.

Turning to the Middle East, she said that civilians in that war-torn region still suffered from the disastrous consequences of terror attacks and the indiscriminate use of force.  Men, women and children on all sides must be given a real chance to live in peace and an atmosphere of increasing mutual trust.  "We know that the path towards that goal is rocky, but we now have reached a turning point", she said, noting that in the aftermath of the armed conflict in Lebanon, all parties in the region had accepted the need for a new, substantive engagement of the international community.  Austria was convinced that the work of the diplomatic Quartet on the Middle East peace process should now pave the way towards a major peace initiative in the region.

On Africa, she said that the long-troubled continent should remain one of the international community's main priorities.  In particular, everyone must work together to avert a humanitarian catastrophe in the Sudan's western Darfur region.  It was simply unacceptable that not even relief agencies were given access to help those most in need, and it was deeply disturbing that there was no clear vision of when the fighting and suffering in that region would be brought to an end.  As had many others over the course of the debate, Austria would call on the Sudanese Government to accept the deployment of a United Nations peacekeeping force without delay.

Among other issues, she highlighted the need of promoting a dialogue among cultures and religions.  She said that Austria lies at the crossroads of many different cultures in the heart of a continent marked by centuries of war and confrontation.  Austria's own difficult experience had taught that tolerance and respect were universal values that everyone must uphold, and that religious beliefs, by their very nature, must never be used to justify violence.  At the same time, Austria knew well, and would therefore stress, that tolerance, acceptance and a dialogue of cultures began at home and that, at the community, as well as regional level, "united for diversity" must be the guiding principle.

MIGUEL ANGEL MORATINOS, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Spain, said countries working within multilateral organizations would help clear up the many questions raised in the current century, since old conflicts continued to erode international security in "the new age".  Indeed, a coalition of peace was required in the Middle East and, to that end, the world should commit itself to the creation of a Palestinian State; the end of violence against Israel; a reactivation of the Madrid Process that had begun 20 years ago; and a global peace that included Syria and Lebanon.  Hopefully, all actors in the region would commit themselves to implementing Resolution 1701 and supporting UNIFIL, of which Spanish troops were a part.

Turning to the Western Mediterranean, he said a united Maghreb was important to Spain, and that the international community must help create the necessary climate to help resolve the region's 30-year conflict.  Ibero-American relations, too, were important, and the Ibero-American community -- which included the United States -- should examine ideas for long-term projects to strengthen itself at its forthcoming conference in Uruguay.

He said terrorism was not acceptable.  Similarly, it was inconceivable that extreme poverty and humanitarian catastrophes should take place in the twenty-first century.  For its part, Spain had increased the quality and quantity of its ODA, which would reach 0.5 per cent of its gross domestic product in 2008.  Its contribution to international organizations and trusteeship funds had already increased by more than 400 per cent.  Also, inequalities in wealth, unemployment, the lack of future options, political instability, lack of respect for human rights and intolerable life conditions had pushed 200 million people to migrate.  As a country on the frontlines of the migration problem, Spain and Turkey had co-sponsored the Alliance of Civilizations to promote intercultural and inter-religious dialogue.  Such things as the cartoon crisis and the effects of the Pope's words, too, had demonstrated an urgent need to implement the principles of the Alliance of Civilizations.

AHMED ABOUL GHEIT, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Egypt, said the views of the North and South on the future of the United Nations had become more divergent.  On issues that had divided Member States, particularly nuclear issues, he said the maintenance of existing nuclear arsenals jeopardized the credibility of the NPT.  Most Member States believed their commitment under the NPT was made on the basis of a corresponding commitment by nuclear-weapons States to eliminate those weapons under international supervision.  It was impossible to deal with terrorism through military force alone.  Implementing the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy must balance the roles of the General Assembly and the Security Council.

The work of the new Human Rights Council must be developed and the General Assembly strengthened, he said.  Weapons of mass destruction must be atop the international agenda, with a focus on achieving universality of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).  On Lebanon, he said the solution partially lay in negotiating a just political settlement and called resolution 1701 a step in the right direction.  On the Arab-Israeli conflict, Egypt was making efforts to improve the security situation through direct engagement with both parties, and sought to resume progress on the three tracks of the settlement process.  The Quartet's Road Map for peace was a cornerstone in achieving peace in the region with a focus on peaceful coexistence.

On Darfur, he said Egypt had participated in the Abuja talks and had provided humanitarian assistance.  Efforts must now focus on strengthening the Darfur-Darfur dialogue and encouraging the Sudanese Government to carry out its commitments.  He called on the African Union to continue peacekeeping until year-end.  The role of the Peacebuilding Commission must be activated as a key step in reforming the United Nations role in addressing the post-conflict reconstruction States emerging from conflict.

MOCTAR OUANE, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Mali, said his country was a crossroads of civilization, and a land of culture, dialogue and tolerance.  Under its current president, Mali was further consolidating its model of democracy, which had been widely copied worldwide.  In July it had signed a peace accord to restore peace and security in the Kidal region, and Malians would go to the polls in the first quarter of 2007, the fourth time they had done so since the arrival of multi-party democracy in 1992.  Mali had also made fighting poverty a Government priority.  Its Government was working on a framework aimed at the sectors of agriculture, industry and trade.  It had recently adopted a law on agricultural guidelines, making that sector a driving force of the national economy. 

He said security could not be ensured in an environment where the movement of small arms and weapons continued to destroy human life, destabilize States and impede their development.  Rarely had international peace and security been put to such a harsh test due to the resurgence of hot spots of conflict and terrorism.  To respond adequately, national and regional capacities needed to be built up and a comprehensive strategy adopted.  No cause justified violence against innocent civilians.  It was important to promote a dialogue of civilizations.

He welcomed progress on reconstruction and reconciliation made in places like Liberia, Guinea-Bissau and the Comoros, and reaffirmed Mali's readiness to assist Ivorian political actors to restore lasting peace.  Implementing the Darfur peace agreement of May 2006 was a major concern.  He urged all involved to meet their commitments to restore peace and preserve national unity.  The recent outbreak of violence in the Middle East recalled the need for the international community to take appropriate measures to create lasting peace.  Mali was actively in solidarity with the peoples of Lebanon and Palestine. 

He said that developing countries suffered backlashes of unfair, discriminatory trade systems, particularly tariff and non-tariff obstacles that distorted competitiveness.  He urged all parties to re-launch the Doha Round so that trade could serve the development of all nations, and particularly lift developing nations out of poverty.  Also, least developed countries were locked in a cycle of dependence on outside financing and would fall behind if nothing was done regarding external debt.  Lasting solutions must be found to make the debt more bearable. 

He said that HIV/AIDS, beyond its health dimensions, was now a problem of development.  Africa was facing a health state of emergency, and the international community needed to give the same priority to other diseases, such as malaria, tuberculosis and polio, whose consequences were just as devastating.

He saluted the creation of the Peacebuilding Commission.  The management of post-conflict situations had long been the weak link of the Organization.  In the area of United Nations reform, progress made should not overshadow the need for Security Council reform.  Mali supported Africa's claim for two permanent and five non-permanent seats, which would better reflect the true political realities of the world.

AICHATOU MINDAOUDOU, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and African Integration of Niger, said that, more than ever before, the international community was confronted by challenges to peace and security, although positive changes had taken place in managing conflicts in places like Burundi, Liberia and Sierra Leone.  Those developments served as a reminder of the need for a decision-making mechanism that could address any threats to international peace and security, regardless of their complexity.  Only a reform of the Security Council, accompanied by a revitalization of the General Assembly, could enhance the legitimacy and effectiveness of those bodies, particularly if they took into account equitable representation accompanied by an improvement in working methods.  Only a fair enlargement of the Council could improve its function and provide a basis acceptable to everyone. 

In Côte d'Ivoire, the United Nations should redouble its efforts to consult with all parties to provide for peaceful administration after 31 October, she said.  The situation in the Middle East, particularly in Lebanon, proved that the United Nations would always be the prime forum for promoting consultations on international peace and security.  The same attention should be given to the resurgence of the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, with the goal of bringing the parties back to the negotiating table and advancing on the Road Map and towards the creation of a sovereign Palestinian State.  The United Nations should also intensify its efforts to reach a definitive solution on Western Sahara.

She said another grave menace to world peace was the nuclear issue.  Niger reaffirmed its support to the commitments of the NPT, while also recognizing the importance of research for peaceful purposes.  Her country welcomed the creation of the Peacebuilding Commission, which should be given full support so that it could effectively help countries in post-conflict situations.  Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea-Bissau all deserved help in consolidating the return of peace and creating conditions favourable for their economic and social development.  To prevent circulation of illegal arms, the member States of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) had transformed a moratorium on small arms and light weapons into a legally binding convention.

She also welcomed the creation of the Human Rights Council, which deserved the full support and cooperation of all Member States.  The United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund would be able to get a better mastery of scourges like food insecurity and cyclical droughts that had plunged a large number of people in certain West African countries into a state of unacceptable precariousness, often as a result of the delay in response from the international community.  The Human Development Index could have been higher if development cooperation had seen the qualitative and quantitative increases foreseen in the Monterrey Consensus.

She welcomed initiatives to find new sources of funding to provide response to the insufficiency noted during the 2005 World Summit, particularly France's UNITAID initiative to fight aids and malaria.  Niger had been one of the first 17 countries to endorse a tax on airline tickets.  The positive nature of international migration could be addressed within that framework, through responses that took into account countries of origin, destination and transit.

JOAO BERNARDO DE MIRANDA, Minister of External Affairs of Angola, said that persistent armed violence in some States had resulted in at least a dozen countries in four continents to become victims of terror.  Poverty was a contributing cause of such threats -- indeed, half of the world's population, or 3 billion people, lived on less than $2 a day.  Some 640 million lived without appropriate housing; 400 million did not have access to drinking water; 270 million lacked access to medical care; and 1 billion were illiterate.  Not even the prospect of future economic growth in Africa could provide hope that poverty could be drastically reduced in some African countries.

However, the resolution of Angola's internal conflict had given the people a sense of peace and stability, he said, leading them to begin the construction of a democratic State through elections and national reconciliation.  With the help of Angola, other countries in Central Africa, too, had succeeded in building democratic societies, in line with Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos' goals to resolve conflicts in Central Africa through negotiations.  In Angola itself, political reform was understood to be a prerequisite for peace and economic development; as such, preparations for voter registration would begin next November, and all necessary conditions had been created to make the coming elections transparent.  Reintegration of displaced people was also a priority, and roughly 4.5 million displaced people and more than 400,000 refugees had been resettled, as were 200,000 former combatants and members of their families.

He said that Angola foresaw a rate of economic growth of 20 per cent in the coming years, and that 4 years of peace had seen the reduction of poverty by 80 per cent.  Important progress had been made in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo, too, whose electoral process had taken place with $30 million in aid from other countries, including from Angola.  In Côte d'Ivoire, however, the situation remained volatile.  Also, persistent violence in the Middle East rendered ineffective any blueprints for peace but, hopefully, Iraq and Afghanistan could achieve peace in such a way that their sovereignty was respected.

He said Angola had a desire to see an accelerated process of United Nations reform, mainly of the Security Council since the present composition of that organ was anachronistic and did not reflect the contemporary international community.  Also, the importance of the recently created Peacebuilding Commission and Human Rights Council was stressed, and Member States were thanked for entrusting Angola with the presidency of the Commission for Peace Consolidation.

MAHMOUD ABBAS, Executive Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization and President of the Palestinian Authority, commended the effective and successful intervention of the international community to stop the "fire of war" in Lebanon just weeks ago. He hoped that that intervention would extend politically and practically to resolve the root of all conflicts and wars that had plagued the Middle East over many decades.  Without resolving the question of Palestine and the continued occupation of Palestinian and Arab lands since 1967, the door would remain open to all forms of violence, terrorism, regional confrontations and global crises, he said.

It was unfortunate to see that international plans and initiatives, foremost among them the Road Map endorsed by the United Nations Security Council, had reached a state of stagnation and even regression, he said.  Calls for the resumption of negotiations were faced with preconditions.  Meanwhile, despair and frustration thrived with the roar of bulldozers building illegal settlements and erecting the "apartheid separation wall" inside occupied land.  They thrived on the continuation of the frightful siege, through military checkpoints, that had turned cities and regions into reservations.  Despair and frustration thrived on the persistent saga of killings and assassinations that had claimed hundreds of civilian lives, and on home demolitions and ongoing arrests.  Under such conditions, he asked how the international community could expect extremism to retreat or the waves of violence to ebb.  He also wondered how leaders could convince the public that the option of negotiation and international legitimacy would be fruitful and have a real chance of success.

He called upon the international community, particularly influential Powers, to provide tangible evidence that they would support the unconditional resumption of negotiations, and ensure their success, through the cessation of settlement activity, collective punishment and separation walls.  That would provide a positive atmosphere for launching negotiations and achieving a just peace, based on a two-State solution, as called for by the President of the United States.  Such a solution must be based on international legitimacy, as upheld by the Arab Peace Initiative, through the establishment of the independent State of Palestine, with the 4 June 1967 borders and East Jerusalem as its capital, and through reaching a just solution for the problem of refugees, who constituted more than half the Palestinian people, in accordance with United Nations General Assembly resolution 194.

The Government of Israel had said it would abandon its policy of unilateralism, he said.  That was encouraging provided that the alternative was not stagnation, but a return to the negotiating table to reach a comprehensive solution, which would ensure a secure future for Palestinian and Israeli children.

He said he sought to establish a Government of National Unity that was consistent with international and Arab legitimacy, and that corresponded to the principles established by the Quartet.  Any future Palestinian Government would commit to all agreements to which the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian National Authority had agreed.  Any future Government would also commit to imposing security and order, to ending the phenomenon of multiple militias, indiscipline and chaos, and to strengthening the rule of law.  Negotiations with Israel would remain the responsibility of the Palestine Liberation Organization.  The outcome of the talks would then be presented to the Palestinian National Council, or to a national public referendum.

He had a vision for the future, where Palestine would be a homeland and not a prison, where Jerusalem would be the capital of two neighbour States that lived in peace and equality, he said.  Echoing the late President Yasser Arafat's call from the same platform 32 years ago, he implored: "Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand, do not let the olive branch fall from my hand."

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