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UN: 'Centrality' of UN keynote theme on third day

'Centrality' of UN keynote theme on third day of General Assembly debate

The centrality of the United Nations to solving the world's multiple crises was the keynote theme as the General Assembly's annual high-level debate moved into its third day.

At its morning session, the Assembly heard President Tassos Papadopoulos of Cyprus note that terrorism around the globe, from Baghdad to Jakarta, from Russia to India and back to the 11 September attacks on the United States transcended international borders in its attack on universal values and demanded an international response.

"As the threat is unfortunately far from over, a genuine mobilization under the aegis of the United Nations is of the essence if this endeavour is to be successful," he declared. Likewise, the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the risk of their acquisition by terrorists had become a top priority on the world's agenda. "In this respect, the United Nations have a truly instrumental role to play," he said.

Turning to the situation in Cyprus, President Papadopoulos thanked Secretary-General Kofi Annan and his Special Adviser, Alvaro de Soto, for their efforts at seeking a solution to the issue. However, he also deplored the "continuing and longstanding Turkish intransigence" which a few months ago "thwarted what was probably the strongest ever initiative of the United Nations for finding a solution in Cyprus."

Taking the floor next, President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation stressed the UN's central role in the major crises facing the world, from Iraq to terrorism to humanitarian suffering. "The UN instruments are not only in demand. As life itself has proven, in critical cases they are simply irreplaceable," he declared.

"Despite strong differences about the ways of resolving the Iraqi crisis, the situation ultimately is coming back to the UN legal field." Russia's position was clear. "Only direct participation of the United Nations in the reconstruction of Iraq will give its people an opportunity to independently decide their future," he said.

Turning to the global nature of terrorism, President Putin said: "The UN is duty bound to become - and is indeed becoming - a basis for the global anti-terrorist coalition." Noting that humanitarian activities consume a lion's share of UN work but do not so often makes front-page news, he added: "However, it is this UN function that essentially continues to be fundamental and irreplaceable." He likewise called for concerted action on combating problems ranging from AIDS to environmental degradation and advocated a gradual and cautious approach to UN reforms such as enlarging the Security Council in order to achieve the broadest possible agreement.

President Néstor Carlos Kirchner of Argentina made an impassioned plea for multilateralism. "Revitalizing this global representation forum is essential in order for international law to become once again the rational instrument enabling us to resolve conflicts and face threats," he said. "It is a fact that multilateralism was the foundation on which this organization was created." Noting that since the end of the Cold War this has changed to the "technological, military and economic supremacy of one country over the rest," he added: "We therefore consider it necessary to reaffirm our deep support for the purposes and principles inspiring the United Nations, both in order to have an organization actively participating to further peace as well as to promote mankind's social and economic development."

With his heavily indebted country having incurred the largest sovereign debt default ever two years ago, President Kirchner devoted much of his speech to the debt issue, and called for concrete international assistance to enable indebted countries to rebuild their economic solvency. He also called for a peaceful settlement of the dispute over the British-ruled Malvinas islands, known in English as the Falklands. "The United Nations has recognized that this is a colonial situation maintained by the United Kingdom and that it must be settled through bilateral negotiations between the Argentine Republic and the UK," he said.

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said the world today was seeing the resurgence of European imperialism, which at first, it had limited to economic strangulation and financial emasculation, but now one witnessed physical occupation by foreign forces and the installation of puppet regimes. He said the UN itself, on which so much hope had been pinned was collapsing, helpless to protect the weak and poor, he noted. It was not surprising that disparities between the rich and the poor had become far greater, he added. Mr. Mahathir stressed the need to restore the integrity and credibility of the Organization.

In addition Mr. Mahathir warned that the unipolar world, led by a democratic nation, was leading the rest of the international community to economic chaos, political anarchy, uncertainty and fear, from which the world would not recover. If the world wanted democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights, the powerful had to demonstrate their commitment to those noble ideals, he said. They could begin by restructuring the United Nations, in particular through the abolition of the undemocratic single country veto, which should be replaced with a modified veto in which two vetoes, backed by three other members of the Security Council, would be needed to block a resolution.

The Chief of the Government of Monaco, Patrick Leclercq, stressed the importance of being accountable as members of the international community to the collective demands of that community. "That is why it is so important to strive to make our Organization more effective so that respect for our principles and objectives take precedence over the apparent facility of self-justified action, so that a common approach, based on dialogue, take precedence over unilateral action," he declared.

Noting that a small country like Monaco must assess the reasonable limits of the contribution it can make to the action of the international community, Mr. Leclercq said the principality had focused its efforts on sustainable development and humanitarian action. "Education, health, childhood protection, development aid and protection of the environment are Monaco's priorities in this respect, promoting action field, more particularly in Africa where we have doubled our aid since the adoption of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) as well as in the Mediterranean region," he added.

Joining the chorus of the multilateralists, Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee said the vision of an enlightened multilateralism had not materialized. "During the past year, the United Nations encountered further new challenges," he added. "We saw the extraordinary inability of the five permanent members of the Security Council to agree on action in respect of Iraq, in spite of complete agreement on basic objectives." He said reform and enlargement of the Security Council was essential for true multilateralism. "For the Security Council to represent genuine multilateralism in its decisions and actions, its membership must reflect current world realities," he declared.

Mr. Vajpayee said international economic relations continued to be characterized by inequities and inequalities between the developing and developed countries, and warned that a preoccupation with terrorism should not dilute a commitment to tackle non-military threats to human and international security such as poverty, AIDS and environmental degradation. Referring to the dispute over Kashmir, Mr. Vajpayee declared: "When the cross-border terrorism stops - or when we eradicate it - we can have a dialogue with Pakistan on the other issues between us."

For his part, the Prime Minister of Andorra Marc Forné Molné recalled one of the proud moments in the long history of his country when in 1993 Andorra became a Member State of the UN. He said they joined with great hopes and continued to believe in the organization's crucial role, despite the crises that have plagued the world body. International cooperation is necessary if the world has to survive global warming, the strange climatic shifts of recent years, pollution of great oceans and lakes and the most dangerous of all threats, nuclear weapons, he noted.

Mr. Molné said the world needed to insist on a decent life for everyone and that was why Andorra was committed to aiding development around the world. Since 1995, Andorra regularly increased its budgetary contributions and it hoped to devote 0.7 per cent of its total budget to foreign aid within two years, he stated. Mr. Molné also said his country supported UN institutions implementing small-scale solutions that fostered self-reliance and local initiative. Andorra was particularly enthusiastic about projects aimed at children, education and helping women to establish their own businesses.

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