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Europe

World Leaders Settle for Diluted UN Reform

World leaders ended a summit Friday by endorsing a watered-down document on UN reform that fell short of their robust calls for increased efforts to combat terrorism and poverty. Germany's foreign minister was critical.

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German Foreign Minister Fischer is unhappy with the UN plans

The three-day summit, which had brought together more than 170 leaders in New York, signed off on the 35-page document by acclamation, despite stubborn objections raised to the end by Venezuela, Cuba and Belarus.

"I urge all political leaders to remain personally committed in order to ensure that the decisions we have taken tonight turn into reality," said Swedish Prime Minister Göran Persson, whose country chairs the current General Assembly session.

US Ambassador John Bolton, who played a key role in the bargaining but was accused of limiting the scope of the final text, expressed satisfaction with what he said was the product of "difficult negotiations."

"The outcome document represents an important step in the long process of UN reform," Bolton said. "We cannot allow the reform effort to be derailed or run out of steam."

He said the United States would work tirelessly to implement the reforms and added, "We can assure you that the American people and all peoples of the world will be watching closely as we proceed."

The document denounced terrorism in all forms, promoted development, backed reform of UN management, called for establishment of a peace-building commission and a more effective human rights council.

Germany disappointed

Fischer bei UN-Vollversammlung

Fischer addressed the UN General Assembly on Thursday

But critics said it was vague on many key points and left out key issues such as disarmament altogether, reflecting persistent divisions within the world body between rich and poor nations.

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer expressed harsh criticism of the declaration ahead of the plenary session. "Germany would … have wished a document with a clearer mandate to act in many areas. It is regrettable that no agreement could be reached on the key issue of disarmament and non-proliferation, nor on the definition of terrorism," he said.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Ali Rodriguez spoke just before the document was adopted to complain that its preparation "was confined to a small group of 32 and then an even smaller group of 15 countries." Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque went on the attack after the text was approved, saying, "This has been the summit of selfishness, arrogance and lies."

UN-Gipfel Kofi Annan

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan

The agreed document was a diluted version of UN chief Kofi Annan's ambitious plan to make the 60-year organization more representative and better able to meet 21st-century challenges. More than 150 heads of state and government addressed the gathering but much of the real business was conducted away from the podium spotlight in sideline meetings to thrash out solutions to old disputes and fresh challenges.

Issue of Iran's nuclear program undecided

The pressing issue of Iran's nuclear ambitions was set to extend beyond the summit into the UN General Assembly, with a much anticipated speech on Saturday by Iran's new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Ahmadinejad, who met with the British, French and German foreign ministers on Thursday, is to unveil proposals Saturday aimed at allaying European and US fears that Tehran is developing nuclear weapons.

The dominant summit theme of how to combat terrorism was taken up again Friday by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who called for greater international cooperation and a focus on the "true causes" of the problem. "We in Indonesia believe that interfaith dialogue and empowering the moderates can reduce radicalism," said the leader of the world's most populous Muslim nation.

That message was echoed by Jordan's King Abdullah II who made an impassioned plea for "zero tolerance" toward those who promote Islamic extremism. "Jordan wants true, moderate, traditional Islam to replace fundamentalist, radical and militant Islam, everywhere in the world, for every single Muslim," Abdullah said.

Terrorism left undefined

Australian Prime Minister John Howard noted that the pervasive shadow of terrorism had become "a grim but inescapable fact" and voiced disappointment that the reform document, adopted by the General Assembly on Tuesday, had fallen short in addressing the terrorist threat. The text of the document failed to establish an agreed definition of terrorism and left out a chapter on disarmament altogether -- an omission branded a "real disgrace" by Kofi Annan.

"There has been understandable criticism at the lack of language on disarmament and non-proliferation, particularly given the risk of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction to terrorists," Howard said.

Terrorism was put at the top of the summit's agenda from the very first day with Annan's opening speech and then by US President George W. Bush. "The terrorists must know the world stands united against them," Bush said. "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."

Parlament wählt Dschalal Talabani zum irakischen Staatschef

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani

The most impassioned plea came Thursday from Iraqi President Jalal Talabani (photo) who said his country was in desperate need of help to confront terrorist "forces of darkness."

Annan opened the three-day summit with a frank assessment of the UN reform document. "We have not yet achieved the sweeping and fundamental reform that I and many others believe is required," Annan said.

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