September 13, 2005

UN scales down ambitious overhaul plans for summit

By Evelyn Leopold

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Ready or not here they come --
some 150 world leaders were set to approve a somewhat
emasculated U.N. document at Wednesday's summit on global
security, human rights, extreme poverty, and U.N. management.

Last-ditch crisis talks continued through the night with
ambitious goals falling by the wayside in an effort to complete
the draft by Tuesday as heads of state and government arrived
for the three-day summit that starts on Wednesday.

Developing nations wanted better trade deals and more aid,
while the United States and Europe faced watered-down human
rights and U.N. management reform proposals.

Nicola Reindorp, an official of the aid organization Oxfam
International, said advocacy groups were disappointed by what
would be the final proposals.

"U.N. ambassadors have been up all night negotiating just
to stand still on previous commitments," she said.

The United States is pressing hard for an overhaul of U.N.
management structures that would move control of the U.N.
secretariat away from the General Assembly.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and his successors would
have more power to set priorities on spending and on mandates,
but be subject to oversight and auditors, following a yearlong
investigation of mismanagement and corruption in the
oil-for-food program for Iraq.

"We are continuing to press hard for effective U.N.
management reforms," U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said during
the overnight talks. "We know the outcome document will only be
a first step. But the first step is important."


The other main issues are counterterrorism; a new
Peacebuilding Commission to help nations emerging from
conflict; a new Human Rights Council to replace the discredited
53-nation Human Rights Commission; non-proliferation and
disarmament; foreign aid, trade and economic development; and
the responsibility for governments to protect civilians facing
genocide and ethnic cleansing.

On terrorism, the text drops language that would have
described as "unjustified" deliberate killings of civilians. It
also deletes Arab proposals that would refer to the right to
resist foreign occupation.

But no sooner was the compromise distributed by British
Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry than Palestinian envoys said it was
unacceptable and a number of Islamic nations sided with them.

"The document deletes the whole paragraph on the
distinction between terrorism and the right of people to resist
foreign occupation," said Somaia Barghouti, the Palestinian
representative. "They can't do that."

Separately, U.S. President George W. Bush and other world
leaders with seats on the 15-member U.N. Security Council will
adopt a British-drafted resolution on ways to curb extremists
inciting terrorism.

Annan's push to enlarge the Security Council, the most
powerful U.N. body, so far has failed as nations spent months
battling each other for seats.

On human rights, the document will call for creating a new
Human Rights Council. But Russia, China and some developing
nations insisted on leaving out details on how it would work
and referring the issue to the General Assembly.

Negotiators reported progress on economic development with
Bolton having compromised on his initial insistence the
document not include the phrase Millennium Development Goals.
These include targets to cut extreme poverty and child
mortality in half and reverse the spread of AIDS, all by 2015.

But talks stalled on trade, with developing nations
insisting on a reference to reduce farm export subsidies and
other trade barriers, as stated in principle in a 2004 World
Trade Organization agreement. The United States argued against
detailed references to the accord.

World leaders will only spend part of the time on pressing
U.N. reforms. One purpose of any summit is meeting each other
and spending hours discussing such issues as Iran's nuclear

Some 4,000 New York police and counterterrorism teams were
preparing for the summit by closing streets, setting up no-fly
zones over the city, searching vehicles around the U.N. complex
and adding extra security on underground trains.

(Additional reporting by Irwin Arieff)