Last week’s summit of nearly 200 world leaders, which marked the 60th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations, fell short of the ambitious goal set forth by Secretary-General Kofi Annan. It was originally intended to promote global action on UN reform, to combat world poverty, and to deal with terrorism and non-proliferation.
Speaking with host Judith Latham of VOA News Now’s International Press Club, British reporter and UN analyst Ian Williams described the 35-page outcome document as “modest.” But he said he thinks people have underestimated one aspect of the summit – namely that 191 states assented to a declaration that the UN Security Council has the right to intervene in countries where there are massive violations of human rights and genocide. Mr. Williams called it a “huge breakthrough” and a reversal of the principle of absolute national sovereignty.
At last week’s summit, the world leaders also agreed in principle on denouncing terrorism, advancing the cause of development, reforming the management of the United Nations, establishing a Peace-Building Commission, and creating a new Human Rights Council to replace the much discredited UN Human Rights Commission. Regarding Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s speech in which he maintained that Iran has an absolute right to a complete nuclear fuel cycle, Ian Williams said the issue is complex from a European perspective. According to Mr. Williams, the Europeans have been trying to offer Iran incentives to give up its nuclear program, but what Tehran “really wants is a deal with the Americans” – that is, recognition and a non-aggression pact.
Chidanand Rajghatta, Washington bureau chief and foreign editor of the Times of India, described the controversy over Iran’s nuclear program as putting India in a tough position. The United States is pressing for a referral to the UN Security Council, but Mr. Rajghatta said India prefers a “more cautious approach” and believes all diplomatic avenues should be exhausted first. He explained that India has a serious energy problem and so New Delhi is trying to keep all options “open” in the hope it can have both nuclear energy from the United States and oil and gas from Iran.
Mr. Rajghatta said that, among the most interesting features of the UN summit, were the bilateral meetings between world leaders. Dmitri Siderov, Washington bureau chief of Kommersant, a business and political daily in Moscow, agreed, noting the meeting between President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin, which he described as a “public relations success” from Mr. Putin’s perspective. But, Mr. Siderov added, if judged by actual “results,” little if anything was achieved in terms of “US-Russian relations” and no agreement had been reached on Iran.
Despite the disappointing results of the recent summit, the journalists said, the member states of the United Nations must continue to try to narrow their differences through diplomacy.
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