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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

14 September 2005

Bush Appeals for Strong U.N. Response to Global Challenges

War on terrorism "not won by arms alone," president says

By Judy Aita
Washington File United Nations Correspondent

United Nations -- President Bush opened the United Nations' 60th Anniversary Summit September 14 with an appeal to nations to step forward to actively respond to the challenges of terrorism, poverty, disease, and promoting development and democracy.

Bush led off the three-day gathering that includes more than 150 presidents, prime ministers and monarchs saying that "in this young century the four corners of the world are linked more closely than ever before and no nation can remain isolated and indifferent to the struggles of others."

"When a country or region is filled with despair and resentment and vulnerable to violent and aggressive ideologies, the threat passes easily across oceans and borders and can threaten the security of any peaceful country," the president said.

The world leaders are meeting to mark the 60th anniversary of the world organization and adopt a document that will help revitalize the United Nations and set an agenda to tackle the problems of the 21st century.  The 35-page document that they are expected to adopt at the end of the session outlines principles in the areas of human rights, development and poverty reduction, peacebuilding and democracy, terrorism, HIV/AIDS and malaria, and U.N. management reform.  (See related article.)

The president devoted a major portion of his remarks to facing and stopping terrorism around the world and tackling the problems that allow terrorists to flourish and recruit.  "The lesson is clear:  There can be no safety in looking away or seeking the quiet life by ignoring the hardship and oppression of others," he said, citing more than a dozen nations that have suffered terrorist attacks.

"We know that this war will not be won by force of arms alone," the president said.  "We must help raise up the failing states and stagnant societies that provide fertile ground for the terrorists.  We must defend and extend a vision of human dignity, and opportunity, and prosperity -- a vision far stronger than the dark appeal of resentment and murder."  (See Response to Terrorism.)

The United Nations must send a clear message that it will not allow the rulers of outlaw regimes who sponsor terror and pursue weapons of mass murder to threaten the peace and stability of the world, he said.

Discussing the need to help nations that are struggling with poverty, the president challenged nations to work together in the Doha negotiations of the World Trade Organization to eliminate agricultural subsidies, tariffs and other barriers to open markets for farmers around the world. (See USA and the WTO.)

"Today I broaden the challenge by making this pledge:  The United States is ready to eliminate all tariffs, subsidies and other barriers to free flow of goods and services as other nations do the same," he said.  "This is the key to overcoming poverty in the world's poorest nations."

The president warned that Avian influenza, or bird flu, presents a new threat to public health and if left unchallenged "this virus could become the first pandemic of the 21st Century."  He announced the creation of a new "International Partnership on Avian and Pandemic Influenza."

On United Nations reform, the president said that the United Nations must be "strong and efficient, free of corruption, and accountable to the people it serves" if the organization is to meet its goals.

"The United Nations must stand for integrity and live by the high standards it sets for others," he said.  "And meaningful institutional reforms must include measures to improve internal oversight, identify cost savings, and ensure that precious resources are used for their intended purpose."

Bush also thanked nations and international agencies for helping the United States deal with the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina.  "We have witnessed the awesome power of nature -- and the greater power of human compassion," he said.

More than 115 countries and a dozen organizations have stepped forward with aid, he said.  "To every nation, every province, and every community across the world that is standing with the American people in this hour of need, I offer the thanks of my nation."

Joining the president in opening the summit were Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson and Gabon President Omar Bongo Ondimba , co-chairs of the summit, and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Annan said that the summit has already served "as a trigger for progress on critical issues" such as the recent creation of the Democracy Fund, the adoption of the International Convention for the Suppression of Nuclear Terrorism, and pledges of an addition $50 billion a year to fight poverty.

"Million of lives, and the hopes of billions, rest on the implementation of these and other pledges to fight poverty, disease, illiteracy and inequality, and on development," he said.

The secretary-general pointed out that in adopting the summit document, the international community will condemn terrorism in all its forms, pledge to finalize an anti-terrorism convention by the end of the year, and support a strategy to fight terrorism in a way that makes the international community stronger and terrorists weaker.

By accepting the document with its statement of responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanities, Annan said, "excellencies, you will be pledged to act if another Rwanda looms."

Persson mentioned the recent terrorist attack in Egypt's Sharm-el Sheik, Hurricane Katrina and starving children in Niger as "painful examples of the challenges facing us today."

"Most of these challenges respect no border.  Most of them are linked.  And most of them can only be met if we work together," Persson said.  "In this age of globalization, we should regard international cooperation as part of our national interest."

Urging nations to bring the declarations and concrete actions much closer together, the prime minister said, "we must rise above short-term interests, and invest in the future for generations to come."

Bongo Ondimba said the summit document "should not merely be one more declaration, but the birth of a new impetus, new commitment, new pragmatism."

"African countries have resolutely embarked on this path.  To us, development, combating poverty, and good governance are our daily struggle," he said.

A transcript of Bush’s remarks to the General Assembly is available on the State Department Web site.  For more information on U.S. activities at the United Nations, see The United Nations at 60.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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