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UN Negotiators Approve Controversial World Summit Declaration

U.N. diplomats have agreed on a declaration to be adopted by world leaders at a three-day summit beginning Wednesday in New York. Several key features of the document were dropped in last-minute negotiations as a deadline for agreement loomed.

A deal on a so-called summit outcome document was struck Tuesday after weeks of day and night negotiations. Diplomats gathered in the General Assembly broke out in applause when the decision was formally announced.

As she emerged from the final negotiating session, deputy U.N. Ambassador Anne Patterson was all smiles.

"I think it is a done deal. What we're going to do is refer it to our leaders on Friday," she said.

The final 35-page document is far less than what negotiators on all sides had hoped for. But Egypt's U.N. ambassador, Maged Abdelaziz, who during the negotiations had become known as a blocker for his repeated objections, said it was time for consensus.

"I accept the chairman's text, with some slight changes if possible. If not possible, that represents a good basis for everybody. We can then start again working in the General Assembly and start on other subjects," said Maged Abdelaziz.

Much of the 35-page document addresses issues of U.N. reform. It contains watered-down sections on development, creation of a human rights council, terrorism and global security. A proposed paragraph on disarmament and non-proliferation has been dropped.

U.S. Ambassador John Bolton acknowledged he was disappointed at some of the compromises that had to be made, especially in the area of management reform. But he said he was encouraged that the United States had obtained a number of important priorities on terrorism and human rights.

"This is the way the UN operates,” said Mr. Bolton. “This is only the first step here. It was only ever going to be the first step here because the nature of the culture here is such that the changes we want, both in the way the secretariat functions and in the way the member governments function, needs to be changed in a substantial way."

Agreement on the outcome document came as many diplomats were beginning to question whether the negotiations might fail. Addressing the General Assembly, Britain's ambassador, Emyr Jones-Parry, called the document a tribute to the leadership of 59th General Assembly President Jean Ping of Gabon.

"The adoption of this outcome document is a tremendous achievement, which only a few days ago I don't think we looked forward to with such rapidity,” he said. “It means the summit can start on the correct basis. For us the challenge will be in the 60th session to actually maintain the progress of what has been achieved today."

The 60th General Assembly is expected to engage in a yearlong effort to put flesh on the bare bones of agreement contained in the summit outcome document. Incoming Assembly President Jan Eliasson said Tuesday the text to be approved at the summit gives him a lot more work than he had expected when he agreed to take the job.