updated 9/23/2008 4:16:53 PM ET 2008-09-23T20:16:53

World leaders called Tuesday for international action to stem the financial crisis, urging cooperative solutions over U.S. steps to counter a credit crunch that has spilled outside U.S. borders to engulf global markets.

The opening of the annual ministerial meeting of the U.N. General Assembly was dominated by widespread concern over the economic health of the world — and the need for the major economic players to contribute to a revival.

While many leaders insisted on a global solution, President Bush assured officials that his government was on the cusp of containing the credit meltdown that has roiled markets and threatens to undercut development and poverty fighting efforts.

Bush said he realizes that other nations are watching how the U.S. deals with the financial crisis, and he expressed confidence that Washington will act “in the urgent timeframe required” to prevent broader problems.

Bush said his administration is working with the U.S. Congress to come to quick agreement on a $700 billion bailout bill, in addition to other recent actions he called “bold steps” aimed at stabilizing markets and keeping credit flowing.

He did not ask for any action by other countries.

But French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who currently heads the European Union which includes some of Washington’s closest allies, insisted on a global solution.

He called for a wholesale reform of the global financial system, urging major economic powers to meet before the end of the year to examine the lessons of the crisis.

“Let us rebuild capitalism in which credit agencies are controlled and punished when necessary, where transparency ... replaces opaqueness,” Sarkozy said. “We can do this on one condition, that we all work together in our globalized world.”

Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, a former labor leader, also called for a global solution to the financial crisis and lashed out at speculators who he blamed for the “anguish of entire peoples.”

“The global nature of this crisis means that the solutions we adopt must also be global,” Silva said.

Philippines President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said “economic uncertainty has moved like a terrible tsunami around the globe, wiping away gains, erasing progress.”

“Just when we thought the worst had passed, the light at the end of the tunnel became an oncoming train, hurtling forward with new shocks to the global financial system,” she said. “The setbacks from these global shocks of the past year, and the past weeks, are real and profound. It will take time and perseverance to put the pieces back together.”

Addressing more than 120 world leaders and dozens of government ministers at the opening of the meeting, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for global leadership to restore order to international financial markets, make trade concessions and act on climate change.

Ban said he worried that nations are losing sight of the “new reality” — that there are “new centers of power and leadership in Asia, Latin America and across the newly developed world” — and that “in this new world, our challenges are increasingly those of collaboration rather than confrontation.”

“The global financial crisis endangers all our work — financing for development, social spending in rich nations and poor, the Millennium Development Goals” to improve life for the poorest,” he said.

“If ever there were a call to collective action — a call for global leadership — it is now,” Ban said.

“We need to restore order to the international financial markets,” he said. “We need a new understanding on business ethics and governance, with more compassion and less uncritical faith in the ‘magic’ of markets. And we must think about how the world economic system should evolve to more fully reflect changing realities of our time.”

He urged world leaders to adopt a new trade deal to help developing countries at the Doha review conference later this year.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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