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Annan says UN members fall short of reform goals

September 14, 2005

By Paul Taylor and Evelyn Leopold

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – U.N. Secretary-General Kofi
Annan told a world summit on Wednesday that United Nations
members had failed to achieve the profound reform the global
organization needed on its 60th anniversary.

Opening a three-day summit of some 150 kings, presidents
and prime ministers, Annan hailed as a breakthrough an
agreement on the responsibility to intervene to protect
civilians against genocide, war crimes and ethnic cleansing.

But a declaration agreed after months of wrangling failed
to agree a common approach to the spread of weapons of mass
destruction or a new definition of terrorism and fell short of
poor nations’ hopes on trade and aid.

“Let us be frank with each other, and the peoples of the
United Nations. We have not yet achieved the sweeping and
fundamental reform that I and many others believe is required,”
Annan told a sprawling gathering overshadowed by a scandal over
abuses of the U.N. oil-for-food program in Iraq.

U.S. President George W. Bush referred obliquely to the
damaging scandal, saying the United Nations must be “free of
corruption, and accountable to the people it serves” and
practice the high moral standards it preached.

BUSH COMBATIVE

In a combative speech, Bush focused on his priorities of
spreading democracy and eliminating barriers to free trade, as
well as using military force, to defeat terrorism and transform
the troubled Middle East.

Addressing a world body whose members are still deeply
divided over the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, he insisted
Iraqis were on the road to building a model democracy despite
yet another day of bloodshed in Baghdad in which more than 150
people were killed.

While Bush emphasized the fight against terrorism and
extremist ideologies, Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson, one
of the co-chairmen, said the main point of the summit should be
“to get the fight against world poverty back on track.”

Many of the world’s poorest countries were falling short of
the ambitious goals to halve world poverty by 2015, combat
disease and promote development agreed at the 2000 U.N.
Millennium summit, he said.

“If we allow this to happen, millions of lives will be lost
and we will pass on a more unfair and unsafe world to the next
generations,” Persson said.

Annan said preparatory negotiations for the summit had
opened up more development aid and debt relief, triggered the
creation of a U.N. Democracy Fund and led to a convention
against nuclear terrorism.

But he called “inexcusable” the second failure in a year to
reach agreement on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament.

ADVOCACY GROUPS UNIMPRESSED

In a paper in March entitled “In Larger Freedom,” Annan set
out challenges for the 21st century that required collective
action: alleviating extreme poverty, reversing the AIDS
pandemic, global security, terrorism and human rights.

But after protracted negotiations over the last few weeks,
nearly every bold initiative suffered cutbacks in the final
38-page document approved by the General Assembly on Tuesday
for endorsement at the summit.

Still, the somewhat weakened document saved the summit from
failure. U.N. officials highlighted initiatives, including the
establishment of a new human rights body, a peacebuilding
commission to help nations emerging from war and perhaps most
significantly, an obligation to intervene when civilians face
genocide and war crimes.

Human rights, anti-poverty and other advocacy groups
expressed disappointment at the outcome.

Nicola Reindorp, head of Oxfam’s New York office, said in a
statement, “We wanted a bold agenda to tackle poverty but
instead we have a brochure showcasing past commitments.”

According to Nancy Soderberg of the International Crisis
Group research group, the developing world seemed stuck in the
1960s while the United States was fighting its own “ideological
hot buttons” on climate change, disarmament and levels of
development aid.

Among the side events on Wednesday were a special Security
Council meeting that adopted a British-drafted resolution
urging governments to adopt laws to curb incitement to
terrorism.

Presidents Hu Jintao of China, Vladimir Putin of Russia,
Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil and Prime Minister
Dominique de Villepin of France as well as Bush and British
Prime Minister Tony Blair were among the leaders of nations
with seats on the 15-member council.

For many New Yorkers, Manhattan turned into a traffic hell.
Streets closed. Armored motorcades glided by as commuters sat
in traffic while snipers stood guard on rooftops.

Even at the United Nations, security was unable to deal
with the crush, keeping journalists with credentials in lines
for hours.