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UN General Assembly Annual Debate Concludes

03 October 2007

The U.N. General Assembly wrapped up its annual debate Wednesday. Climate change and conflicts in Africa and the Middle East dominated the debate. From U.N. headquarters in New York, VOA's Margaret Besheer has more.

Nearly 100 heads of state and governments and some 80 foreign ministers addressed the general assembly during the seven days of the annual debate.

Responding to the challenges of climate change was the theme of the 62nd General Assembly, and this year's president, Srgjan Kerim, says nations need to be on "high alert."

"Responding to the challenge of climate change, you have resent a strong political message that the time for talk has passed, and the time for action has begun," said Srgjan Kerim. "I believe an important shift has taken place. Climate change has become the flagship issue of the 62nd session."

On the political front, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has made resolving the conflict in the Darfur region of Sudan one of the United Nations' highest priorities. He recently made a visit to the war-torn area and hosted a high-level meeting devoted to Darfur on the sidelines of the General Assembly.

Darfur and the upcoming deployment of a 26,000 - strong U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force to the region dominated the annual debate. On Wednesday, Sudanese Foreign Minister Lam Akol addressed the assembly and reaffirmed his government's commitment to resolving that crisis at peace talks later this month.

"We further reiterate our full readiness for the peace talks in Libya scheduled to take place on October 27, 2007," said Lam Akol. "We call from this forum on all the rebel movements in Darfur to join the peace march without delay, and to cease hostilities forthwith in response to the repeated calls of the Sudan government. "

Several important meetings took place on the sidelines of the annual gathering, including talks on the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as the Middle East peace process.

The recent government crackdown on pro-democracy protestors in Burma received widespread condemnation from the gathering. U.S. President George Bush used his speech on the first day of the general assembly to announce new economic sanctions against Burma's military government, while the Secretary-General dispatched his special envoy to the region on an emergency mission.

As the annual debate came to a close, U.N. General Assembly President Srgjan Kerim reminded the gathering that the assembly is the only forum where many of these issues can be dealt with comprehensively, and he said it is up to the member states to take the necessary action on these pressing issues.

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