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Stage Set for UN Anniversary Summit


It may be the largest gathering of kings, presidents and prime ministers in history. Heads of state and government from roughly 150 countries will be in the General Assembly hall Wednesday when the three-day U.N. anniversary observance begins.

The host of the gathering, Secretary General Kofi Annan had hoped to have the gathering endorse a far-reaching series of U.N. reforms as well as measure to alleviate world poverty.

But after weeks of often-bitter debate, the final document being presented to the summit is lacking much of Mr. Annan's ambitious agenda.

A proposal on disarmament and non-proliferation was deleted entirely. So was language defining terrorism, along with details of a plan to replace the discredited U.N. Human Rights Commission.

Other proposals were weakened during the negotiating process, including a U.S.-backed plan for restructuring U.N. management practices.

After the process was over, Secretary-General Annan was visibly upset at deletion of the disarmament text. He called it a disgrace. But he rejected a reporter's suggestion that the weakened outcome document was a sign of failure.

"It would be wrong to describe this process as a failure. It's in the nature of the organization when you have 191 member states, you do not always get what you want, but we have been given something we should work with, and so I would encourage you not to describe it as a failure," Mr. Annan says.

Mr. Annan criticized what he called "certain spoiler countries" that had blocked progress by repeatedly refusing to make concessions in the negotiations.

He did not name those countries, but other diplomats did. Deputy U.S. Ambassador Anne Patterson came out of the final negotiating session Tuesday expressing disgust with countries that had prevented stronger action on establishing a more robust U.N. human rights mechanism.

"And on human rights, we had a broad coalition on that, and it's too bad that certain countries like Egypt and Pakistan and Cuba and frankly China tried to derail it, but we'll deal with it in the General Assembly and I think there's some steam behind it," Ms. Patterson says.

European states were also unhappy with the document's weak human rights section. European Union External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said the effect would be nothing more than a name change of the U.N. human rights body, rather than a reform.

World leaders are expected to adopt the 35-page outcome document Friday at the close of their three-day anniversary summit. Leaders of the 15 Security Council countries will also approve a British-sponsored resolution urging all nations to outlaw acts intended to incite terrorism.

The summit opens Wednesday morning with addresses by Secretary General Annan and President Bush. Mr. Bush's day at the United Nations will also include bilateral meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, as well as participating in the launching of a U.N. democracy fund. He will attend a luncheon hosted by Secretary-General Annan before returning to Washington late in the day.

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