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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Annan Kicks Off 60th UN Session With a Plea

UNITED NATIONS -- A UN summit commemorating the 60th anniversary of the United Nations opened Wednesday with an appeal from Secretary-General Kofi Annan to world leaders to restore confidence in the world body and act together to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

Addressing over 150 presidents, prime ministers and monarchs, Annan said the document they will be adopting at the end of the summit on Friday was "a good start" but not "the sweeping and fundamental reform" he proposed and 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 amongst us cannot succeed alone," he said in an apparent reference to the U.S. difficulties in coping with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf Coast.

Speaking in a packed General Assembly chamber, Annan said he was prepared to work with world leaders to implement the measures in the package and to reform the culture and practices in the UN Secretariat that he heads.

"We must restore confidence in the organization's integrity, impartiality, and ability to deliver," he said.

U.S. President George W. Bush, addressing the skeptical audience, sought to sell his blueprints for spreading democracy in Iraq and elsewhere, overhauling the United Nations and expanding trade. He also backed UN development goals, including cutting extreme poverty by half by 2015, 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 said.

Tightened security has streets around UN headquarters closed to traffic, boats patrolling the adjacent East River, and no airplanes allowed overhead.

Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson, who is the summit co-chair, opened the high-level meeting with an appeal for collective action to prevent conflict and genocide and to protect human rights.

He warned that millions of lives would be lost if significant steps were not taken now to fight global poverty "and we will pass on a more unfair and more unsafe world to the next generation."

At a time of turmoil, conflict and terrorist attacks, Persson also stressed that the world needed to act together.

"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."

Gabon President Omar Bongo, Person's co-chair, 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.

In an increasingly interdependent world, Bongo said, "the United Nations must be enabled fully to play its role. It has to be made an effective tool to build a multilateral system that will benefit everybody."

He welcomed the agreement reached Tuesday by the 191 UN member states on a final document the world leaders are expected to adopt on Friday.

But the 35-page document was continuously watered down during intense negotiations to win support from all UN member states.

Nonetheless, Annan and many ambassadors who spent day and night over the past week trying to reach agreement on hundreds of contested passages were relieved that there was a document for their leaders to approve.

Mark Malloch Brown, the secretary-general's chief of staff, said the situation "was heading off the rails" on Tuesday morning, with 140 passages and 27 issues still undecided.

In "a high-risk gamble," he said Annan and the incoming and outgoing presidents of the General Assembly decided to drop the issues where there was no agreement, decide on language for which they thought they could win approval, and present a clean text to member states. It worked.

Late Tuesday afternoon, the General Assembly approved the draft. A visibly relieved Annan arrived at a long-delayed press conference and told reporters: "The good news is that we do have an outcome document."

"Obviously, we didn't get everything we wanted, and with 191 member states, it's not easy to get an agreement," Annan said. "All of us would have wanted more, but we can work with what we have been given, and I think it is an important step forward."

U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns, who played a key role, was similarly upbeat.

"We did not get everything we wanted," he said. "We had to compromise ... [but] it's a good beginning."

The compromise document failed to give Annan the authority to move jobs and make management changes that the United States, the European Union and others sought. It did not define terrorism, and it dropped the entire section on disarmament and nonproliferation, which Annan called "a real disgrace."

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

Its major achievements were the creation of a new Peacebuilding Commission to help countries emerging from conflict and acceptance by all UN members of the collective international responsibility to protect people from genocide, war crimes and ethnic cleansing.

"Don't expect Rome to be built in a day; it wasn't," British Ambassador to the UN Emyr Jones-Parry cautioned. "Against the difficulty of this negotiation, its complexity, this is a very substantial gain."