President Bush, who once warned that the United Nations was in danger of becoming irrelevant, said Tuesday that multinational organizations are now "needed more urgently than ever" to combat terrorists and extremists who are threatening world order.
In his eighth and final speech to the U.N. General Assembly, Bush said the international community must stand firm against the nuclear ambitions of North Korea and Iran. He said that despite past disagreements over the U.S.-led war in Iraq, members of the U.N. must unite to help the struggling democracy succeed. And he scolded Russia for invading neighboring Georgia, calling it a violation of the U.N. charter.
"The United Nations' charter sets forth the equal rights of nations large and small," he said. "Russia's invasion of Georgia was a violation of those words."
Bush, who has had a testy relationship with the U.N. which he says has been slow to address global problems, called on the U.N. to focus more on results and aggressively rally behind young democracies like Georgia, Ukraine, Lebanon, Afghanistan and Liberia.
Working closely to prevent violence
Bush said that instead of issuing statements and resolutions after terrorist attacks, the U.N. and such organizations must work closely to prevent violence. Every nation has responsibilities to prevent its territory from being used for terrorist, drug trafficking and nuclear proliferation, he said.
Bush, who ordered the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 without the U.N.'s blessing, said: "The United Nations and other multilateral organizations are needed more urgently than ever." His farewell address, however, comes at a time when many multilateral diplomatic missions Bush has championed are stalled. North Korea is backing away from pledges to abandon nuclear weapons. A Palestinian-Israeli peace pact before Bush leaves office is unlikely. Violence is flaring in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Iran continues to pursue its nuclear work in defiance of international demands.
Throughout Bush's speech, hard-line Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has vowed that Iran's military will "break the hand" of anyone targeting the country's nuclear facilities, sat in his seat and smiled and waved to people in the chamber. At one point during Bush's 22-minute talk, Ahmadinejad turned to someone at his side and gave a thumb's down.
Bush insisted that while regimes like Syria and Iran continue to sponsor terror, "their numbers are growing fewer, and they're growing more isolated from the world."
But he warned: "As the 21st century unfolds, some may be tempted to assume that the threat has receded. This would be comforting. It would be wrong. The terrorists believe time is on their side, so they've made waiting out civilized nations part of their strategy. We must not allow them to succeed."
'Bold and effective United Nations'
The 21st century needs a bold and effective United Nations, he said.
"Where there's inefficiency and corruption, it must be corrected. Where there are bloated bureaucracies, they must be streamlined. Where members fail to uphold their obligations, there must be strong action," Bush said.
He called for an immediate review of the U.N. Human Rights Council; a stronger effort to help the people of Myanmar live free of repression; and more pressure on the government of Sudan to uphold pledge to address violence in Darfur.
Bush's appearance at U.N. headquarters was overshadowed by the U.S. financial markets crisis that has rippled through world markets. Trying to reassure world leaders that his administration is taking decisive action to stem market turmoil, Bush said he is confident that Congress will act in the "urgent time frame required" to prevent broader problem. But he did not ask other nations to take any specific actions.
Met with Pakistan president
Before his speech, Bush met with Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari to discuss the weekend bombing of the Marriott hotel in Islamabad and U.S. military incursions into Pakistan targeting militants using remote areas of the Muslim nation to launch attacks in neighboring Afghanistan and elsewhere. Bush expressed sorrow for the victims of a deadly truck bomb that devastated a Marriott hotel in Islamabad and acknowledged tensions over U.S. military incursions into Pakistani territory.
"Your words have been very strong about Pakistan's sovereign right and sovereign duty to protect your country, and the United States wants to help," Bush said about the incursions, which have caused a rift in U.S.-Pakistan relations.
On the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, Bush attended a meeting on food security, had lunch with a group of political dissidents and met with Uganda President Yoweri Museveni — a meeting that the White House said was added at the last minute to discuss the Lord's Resistance Army led by Joseph Kony, who has led a brutal 21-year insurgency in northern Uganda.
On Tuesday evening, Bush is co-hosting an Iraq coalition meeting with President Jalal Talabani of Iraq, consisting of countries that participated in the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq. Both leaders will deliver remarks that will underscore the significance of a more stable and prosperous Iraq for a more hopeful future in the Middle East.