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Millennium Summit opens in New York

Millennium Summit opens in New York with calls for renewing UN

6 September -- The United Nations Millennium Summit - the largest-ever gathering of world leaders - opened today at UN Headquarters in New York amid calls for seizing the historic occasion to renew the mission and purpose of the Organization and to turn it into a more effective servant of people around the globe.

The Summit, which is expected to bring together over 150 heads of State and Government, was declared opened this morning by its co-chairs, President Tarja Halonen of Finland and President Sam Nujoma of Nambia.


Secretary-General Kofi Annan

Speaking at the outset of the forum, Secretary-General Kofi Annan stressed that the Summit was not only a unique opportunity, but also a unique responsibility, since it was up to political leaders to ensure a more secure, healthy and prosperous life of their citizens. He also stressed that in today's interdependent world, peoples looked to a common effort to solve their problems and expected governments to work together at the global level, "as the United Nations."

"We need to decide our priorities. And we must adapt our United Nations, so that in future those priorities are reflected in clear and prompt decisions, leading to real change in people's lives," Mr. Annan said.


US President Bill Clinton

The need to further strengthen the UN to meet the challenges of the new century was also stressed by US President Bill Clinton, who, as leader of the host country, was the first speaker to address the Summit. He cited two examples where had the UN not engaged, the situation would have been far worse -- in East Timor, where "the people would have lost the chance to control their future," and Sierra Leone, where "countless children now living would be dead." In both cases, however, "the UN did not have the tools to finish the job." He called on the assembled world leaders to provide those tools while supporting conflict prevention.

The U.S. President acknowledged that "all these things come with a price tag and all nations, including the United States, must pay it." He emphasized that prices must be fairly apportioned and the UN structure of finances must be fairly reformed so that the Organization can do its job. "Those in my country or elsewhere who believe we can do without the UN or impose our will upon it misread the future," the President said.

Other world leaders speaking at the Summit's plenary this morning, addressed a range of global issues, focusing on the UN's role in galvanizing international action. The Assembly heard addresses from the President of Equatorial Guinea; the President of Guatemala, the President of Iran, the President of Nicaragua, the President of the Russian Federation, the President of the Maldives, the President of Namibia, the King of Jordan, the President of Viet Nam, the President of Yemen, the President of France, the President of Kenya, the President of Honduras, the President of Chile, the President of the Federated States of Micronesia, the President of The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the President of Guyana, the President of China, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, the Prime Minister of Iceland, the Prime Minister of Belize, the Prime Minister of Israel, the Prime Minister of Ireland, the Prime Minister of Liechtenstein, the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

According to Summit spokesperson Thérèse Gastaut, the event is a "working session," and in addition to addressing the plenary, the heads of State and Government will participate in one of four interactive round-tables scheduled to begin this afternoon. The four round-tables will be chaired by the leaders of Algeria, Poland, Singapore and Venezuela.

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