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UN Summit Adopts Modest Reforms


The summit of world leaders has adopted a declaration outlining new steps to reform the United Nations and fight poverty. The document was adopted despite last-minute objections from Venezuela.

The 35-page outcome document approved by consensus late Friday is far less than what Secretary-General Kofi Annan and supporters of a stronger U.N. had hoped for, and a few countries found it objectionable for other reasons.

Moments before the statement was adopted, Venezuela's Foreign Minister Ali Rodriguez raised his hand to object. He complained that the decisions contained in the document had been reached by a small group of powerful countries without consulting the majority.

"The decision that has been taken...will be grim indeed, and dark," he said. "It was conceived in darkness and brought from that darkness, from those shadows to be approved in violation of elemental democratic practices that govern the practices of sound democracy."

But as soon as the Venezuelan objection had been registered, Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson banged the gavel symbolizing adoption of the document. "May I take it that the assembly wishes to adopt draft resolution entitled 2005 World Summit Outcome as corrected? It is so decided," he said, banging the gavel.

There was one more objection after the vote. Cuba's Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque joined his Venezuelan counterpart, saying the summit had been characterized by what he called selfishness and lies. "The gross irregularities in the negotiating process with a sequence of secrecy, exclusion, discrimination, is now compounded by the grave omissions in this document," he said.

But U.S. Ambassador John Bolton, who joined weeks of day and night negotiations on the text of the document, welcomed many of the document's main features. "We are pleased that the Member States have agreed to denounce terrorism in all its forms, advance the cause of development, reform the management of the UN, establish a Peacebuilding Commission, and create a Human Rights Council," he said.

At the same time, Ambassador Bolton suggested that the hard work of reforming the world body remains ahead. "We cannot allow the reform effort to be derailed or run out of steam," said Mr. Bolton. "The United States, through its representatives at the United Nations, will work tirelessly during the 60th session of the General Assembly and beyond to ensure that reform occurs."

The outcome document is considered modest in scope, compared to the grand blueprint outlined by Secretary-General Annan when he called the summit six months ago. Its main features include an agreement on the international responsibility to protect civilians from genocide and ethnic cleansing, as well as establishment of a peace building commission to help countries emerging from conflict.

Members also agreed to replace the discredited U.N. Human Rights Commission, which has in the past admitted such rights abusers as Libya, Sudan and Cuba among its members. But compromises during the negotiating process have raised questions about whether a new Human Rights Council would be any stronger than its predecessor.

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