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UN lowers reform target

United Nations, Sept. 14 (Reuters): World leaders gathered at the UN today for a summit on revitalising the organisation but their blueprint falls short of secretary-general Kofi Annan’s vision of freedom from want, persecution and war.

President George W. Bush was among the first of 150 kings, presidents and prime ministers to address the session marking the 60th anniversary of the world body, suffering from corruption scandals and sharp divisions among its members on how to tackle international crises.

Annan and his wife, Nane, greeted each president and prime minister individually, shaking hands with some, kissing others as UN guards saluted each one. They then headed into a breakfast organised for them.

But security was overwhelming and the lines to get into the UN complex were long, even for delegates and especially for journalists, many of whom waited well over an hour before gaining entry.

The General Assembly yesterday approved a document negotiated until the last minute in what Mark Malloch Brown, Annan’s chief of staff, called “a high risk gamble.”

Annan, in a paper in March, entitled: “In Larger Freedom,” addressed challenges for the 21st century that required collective action: alleviating extreme poverty, reversing the AIDS pandemic, global security, terrorism and human rights.

But after bitter negotiations over the last few weeks, nearly every bold initiative suffered cutbacks in the final 38-page document approved by the General Assembly yesterday for endorsement at the summit.

“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.” Still, the somewhat weakened document saved the summit from failure.

In his speech, Bush said the the world must tackle the problems that lead the oppressed to pursue terrorism because “there can be no safety in looking away”.

Bush, who has pursued military force in fighting terrorism since the September 11, 2001, attacks, acknowledged that the war on terrorism “will not be won by force of arms alone.”

“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. Either hope will spread or violence will spread, and we must take the side of hope,” Bush said.

On trade, Bush said the US was prepared to drop all trade tariffs, subsidies and other barriers if other nations did the same.

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