World leaders are gathering at the United Nations for a summit marking the organization's 60th anniversary. But with hours to go before the event begins, a hoped-for document on U.N. reform is being scaled back in the face of bitter disagreements among member states.
Deadlines were being pushed back to the limit in a last-ditch attempt to reach a compromise on a summit outcome document. Diplomats worked long into Monday night, and a scheduled Tuesday morning negotiating session was postponed to allow for a final attempt to find common ground on at least some of the seven main areas of discussion.
But with 150 presidents and prime ministers due in the General Assembly hall Wednesday, negotiators were said to be making wholesale deletions where no agreement was reached.
One diplomat involved in the talks, Pakistan's U.N. Ambassador Munir Akram, said many countries are disappointed that weeks of talks had yielded so little compromise. He said too much time had been wasted on proposals for Security Council reform, which have since been dropped.
"I think we were stalled for three months on the Security Council, and got started late on this document with huge agenda, and it's not surprising we are in a difficult situation," he said.
U.S. diplomats Monday had hailed progress on the summit declaration and suggested that agreement on a scaled-back document was at hand. U.S. mission spokesman Richard Grenell said he was puzzled that some settled issues seem to have been reopened in last-minute negotiations. But he cautioned that the final document, whatever it turns out to be, is only a statement of general principles that will require a lot of work after the summit is over.
"In terms of this being a first step, it's good news," he said. "In terms of the work we have to do for the future, it signals we still have to spend the fall and spring, or however long it takes, to make the reforms necessary, that member states want."
Secretary-General Kofi Annan was himself involved in negotiating sessions Tuesday in an effort to save the bulk of an ambitious U.N. reform and poverty alleviation proposal that he had put forward early this year.
But most diplomats agreed that member states had underestimated the amount of preparatory work needed to reach consensus. Brazil's U.N. ambassador Ronaldo Mota Sardenberg was quoted Tuesday as saying the final document will likely just restate ideas that have already been agreed on.