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UN Chief Says Daunting Challenges Ahead


Secretary General Ban Ki-moon opened the annual U.N. General Assembly debate Tuesday saying the world faces a "daunting array of challenges" including nuclear proliferation, the crisis in Darfur, peace in the Middle East and climate change. VOA's Margaret Besheer at the United Nations has more.

Presiding over his first General Assembly debate as secretary-general, Mr. Ban said from his first day in office he has stressed the importance of disarmament. He said the international community must step up its effort to halt the spread of weapons of mass destruction and their related technology.

He says he is encouraged by recent progress on North Korea's nuclear disarmament and believes the Iranian nuclear issue can be peacefully resolved.

"I am confident that we will reach a negotiated solution with the Islamic Republic of Iran," said Mr. Ban. "Our ultimate goal remains the complete elimination of weapons of mass destruction. If we fail, these weapons may one day eliminate us."

On Africa, Mr. Ban says he will leave no stone unturned to end the tragedy in Darfur.

"The crisis in Darfur grew from many causes," he said. "Any enduring solution must address all of them - security, politics, resources, water, humanitarian and development issues. There, as elsewhere, we must deal with root causes of conflict, however complex and entangled."

The secretary-general says peace in the Middle East is vital to the stability of the region and the world.

He praised renewed efforts at negotiating a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He called for presidential elections to go ahead in Lebanon in accordance with that country's constitution. On Iraq, he said it has become the whole world's problem, and that the United Nations has an important role to play in promoting political negotiations and national reconciliation there.

Mr. Ban said the changing world needs a stronger U.N.

"My vision is an administration focused on results - efficient, directed, pragmatic and accountable, an administration representing excellence, integrity and pride in serving the global good," said the U.N. chief.

The theme of the 62nd General Assembly's annual debate is "responding to climate change." On Monday, the secretary-general convened a summit of more than 150 heads of state and governments to discuss global warming.

Leaders from the United Nation's 192 member states are attending the General Assembly in New York for seven days of speeches before the body. Twenty-seven leaders are speaking on Tuesday, among them U.S. President George Bush and the leaders of Brazil, France, Afghanistan, Iran and Indonesia.

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