Gregory Bull  /  AP
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan speaks during a Security Council meeting on Wednesday.
updated 9/14/2005 7:28:58 PM ET 2005-09-14T23:28:58

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan appealed Wednesday to world leaders marking the 60th anniversary of the United Nations to help restore confidence in the world body and to act together to meet the challenges of the new century.

Addressing more than 150 presidents, prime ministers and monarchs, Annan said a document they will adopt at the end of the three-day summit was “a good start” but not “the sweeping and fundamental reform” he proposed. He called for urgent action on the tough, unresolved issues.

“Because one thing has emerged clearly from this process on which we embarked two years ago: Whatever our differences, in our interdependent world, we stand or fall together,” Annan said.

“Whether our challenge is peacemaking, nation-building, democratization or responding to natural or man-made disasters, we have seen that even the strongest among us cannot succeed alone,” he said, apparently referring to U.S. difficulties in coping with Hurricane Katrina.

President Bush, before a skeptical audience in the General Assembly chamber, sought to sell his blueprints for spreading democracy in Iraq and elsewhere, overhauling the United Nations and expanding trade.

Plea for compassion
He urged compassion for the needy and pressed the global community to “put the terrorists on notice” by cracking down on any activities that could incite deadly attacks. “The terrorists must know that wherever they go they cannot escape justice,” Bush told world leaders who sat silently throughout his speech.

The U.N. Security Council unanimously passed two resolutions — one calling on nations to outlaw the incitement of terrorism and to counter violent extremist ideologies, and the other urging the United Nations to do more to prevent armed conflict, especially in Africa. Leaders of the 15 nations sat around the council’s horseshoe-shaped table for the vote, something extremely rare in the history of the council.

The presidents of Russia, China, Iran, Iraq and Pakistan are also attending along with the prime ministers of Britain, France and Israel. Tightened security has streets around U.N. headquarters closed to traffic, boats patrolling the adjacent East River, and no airplanes allowed overhead.

On the sidelines of the summit, a Russian-sponsored treaty making it a crime to possess radioactive material or weapons with the intention of committing a terrorist act opened for signatures. Russian President Vladimir Putin was the first to sign, followed soon after by Bush.

Opening the summit, Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson urged joint action to prevent conflict and genocide and to protect human rights. He warned that millions of lives will be lost if significant steps are not taken to fight global poverty.

“We the heads of state and government owe this to coming generations,” he said. “We cannot afford to fail. We need to find collective solutions based on the rule of law and for this we need a stronger United Nations.”

Final document watered down
Gabon’s President Omar Bongo, co-chairing the summit with Persson, focused on the plight of Africa, seeking more support for the promotion of human rights and conflict resolution. “It would be futile to build lasting development without peace and security,” Bongo told the chamber.

He welcomed the agreement reached Tuesday by the 191 U.N. member states on a final document that world leaders are expected to adopt Friday, when the summit closes. The 35-page text was watered down during intense negotiations to win support from all U.N. member states.

Despite the disappointment Annan expressed in his opening speech, he and many ambassadors who worked tirelessly to reach agreement on hundreds of contested passages were relieved there was a document at all.

In what Annan’s chief of staff Mark Malloch Brown called “a high-risk gamble,” the secretary-general and the incoming and outgoing presidents of the General Assembly decided to drop issues where there was no agreement, choose language for which they thought they could win consent, and present a clean text to member states. It worked.

While 16 pages focused on development, outgoing General Assembly President Jean Ping of Gabon said there wasn’t the political will among richer countries to aid Africa on a massive scale with an agenda similar to the U.S. Marshall plan, which helped Europe recover after World War II.

No added authority for Annan
The compromise document also failed to give Annan the authority to move jobs and make management changes that the United States, the European Union and others sought. It didn’t define terrorism, and it dropped the entire section on disarmament and nonproliferation which Annan called “a real disgrace.”

It did express resolve to create a Human Rights Council to replace the discredited Human Rights Commission but left the details to the General Assembly.

The document’s major achievements were the creation of a new Peacebuilding Commission to help countries emerging from conflict and acceptance by all U.N. members of the collective responsibility to protect people from genocide, war crimes and ethnic cleansing.

“Don’t expect Rome to be built in a day, it wasn’t,” Britain’s U.N. Ambassador Emyr Jones-Parry cautioned. “Against the difficulty of this negotiation, its complexity, this is a very substantial gain.”

“The United Nations is a reflection of the world,” Ping stressed. “We can only get as far as member states are prepared to go. ... Still, I will claim that this represents major reform of the United Nations.”

‘Spoilers ... in the group’
When Annan called on world leaders a year ago to take “bold decisions” on the way forward, he warned that if they didn’t, “History will take the decisions for you, and the interests of your peoples may go by default.”

The secretary-general said he would have preferred stronger language in parts of the text but “there were governments that were not willing to make the concessions necessary. There were spoilers also in the group; let’s be quite honest about that.”

Oxfam’s Nicola Reindorp said: “Leaders will arrive to find that Cuba, Pakistan, Egypt, Iran, Syria, the United States and Venezuela have held the summit hostage.”

“There is very little to celebrate in the latest U.N. Summit outcome document,” she said in a statement. “We wanted a bold agenda to tackle poverty but instead we have a brochure showcasing past commitments.”

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