Accessibility links

Annan, Bush Address UN Summit of World Leaders

A three-day summit of world leaders is under way in New York, marking the 60th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations. President Bush and Secretary-General Kofi Annan addressed the opening session.

In his welcome address in the grand General Assembly hall, Secretary-General Annan recalled his speech at the same podium in 2003. Then, he asserted that the world body had reached what he called a "fork in the road."

That comment sparked a lengthy debate about U.N. reform, and questions about whether the organization was suited for the challenges of the 21st century.

Looking back two years later, Mr. Annan issued a clarification. He told the 60th anniversary gathering of kings, presidents and prime ministers he had not meant to imply that the organization was in crisis.

"No, I meant that deep divisions among member states, and the underperformance of our collective institutions, were preventing us from coming together to meet the threats we face and seize the opportunities before us," he said.

But speaking one day after the General Assembly agreed on a radically scaled-back statement of goals that Mr. Annan had put forward, he lamented that his reform agenda has suffered setbacks.

"Let us be frank with each other and the peoples of the United Nations," he said. "We have not yet achieved the sweeping and fundamental reform that I and many others believe is required. Sharp differences, some of them substantive and legitimate, have played their part in preventing that."

The opening session will be followed by two days of speeches from other heads of state and government. In addition, leaders of Security Council countries were to adopt two special resolutions at a ceremonial session. One is a British-sponsored measure urging nations to outlaw the act of incitement to terror.