UN in crisis talks as world summit date looms
By Evelyn Leopold
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – Days before the largest
gathering of world leaders in history, U.N. ambassadors
struggled to overcome deep divisions on how to tackle extreme
poverty, enhance human rights and approach global security in
the 21st century.
U.S. Ambassador John Bolton was somewhat optimistic that a
document could be agreed for world leaders, including President
Bush, to approve at the September 14-16 U.N. summit.
“I think we are still making progress. I think it is slow
but it is steady,” Bolton said during marathon negotiations.
“That is why we are here on a Sunday and that’s why we will be
here Monday,” the U.S. Labor Day holiday, he said.
Another draft document, the fourth, is expected to be
produced late on Monday but with “brackets” — paragraphs where
No one doubts a document will eventually emerge. Whether it
would cut new ground is another question.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan had hoped the summit of 175
world leaders would map out new approaches to the international
system and revitalize the world body. Rich nations were to
agree on a development agenda in exchange for support for
Western demands on human rights, terrorism, intervention in
case of genocide and war crimes and U.N. management reforms.
But the issues brought out deep disagreements on every key
subject, even between the United States and the European Union
as well as among developing nations.
The EU is among the few groups that backs the 39-page draft
document prepared by General Assembly President Jean Ping. The
United States has put forth more than 500 amendments to it.
Dutch Ambassador Dirk Jan van den Berg said the draft
document was supported by 125 members from all regions.
Those who agree with the draft “should speak up,” said
Ellen Margrethe Loj, Denmark’s U.N. ambassador.
“The EU position was that the revised document from
President Ping was a very good basis and we would hate to see
that being watered down too much,” Loj said. “But on the other
hand we know there are issues where we have to find the
political agreement among the delegations.”
Several negotiators told Reuters that John Dauth, the
Australian ambassador leading the group on the dangers of
proliferation of nuclear and other unconventional weapons,
reported there was “no prospect of making progress.”
Developing nations are hesitant in agreeing to Western
demands without strong anti-poverty commitments.
On development, the United States is demanding that all
mention of the words “Millennium Development Goals” be deleted.
The phrase described eight objectives on poverty, hunger,
primary education, AIDS and others, with specific goals to be
achieved by 2015.
In a letter to fellow ambassadors last month, Bolton said
Washington supported the goals enunciated at a 2000 Millennium
U.N. summit that the Clinton administration approved, but not
targets and indicators circulated later. He proposed
substituting the words “internationally agreed development
“You go to the working groups, you find the desk officers,
repeating the national positions,” Egyptian Ambassador
Abdelfattah Abdelaziz said on Sunday of the negotiating process
among 32 nations, which then broke into smaller groups.
Pakistan’s U.N. envoy, Munir Akram, agreed. “One of the
definitions of madness is you keep doing the same thing but you
expect different results,” he said.