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UN General Assembly Opens 58th Session - 2003-09-16

The United Nations General Assembly opened its 58th session in New York Tuesday. About 100 world leaders, including President Bush, are scheduled to participate in the annual gathering.

The General Assembly began with a moment of silence for the victims of last month's terrorist attack at United Nations' Baghdad headquarters.

Then, the new General Assembly president, Ambassador Julian Robert Hunte, presented his vision for the year ahead.

Ambassador Hunte, from the Caribbean island of St. Lucia, represents the smallest nation to assume the Assembly presidency. He follows Jan Kavan of the Czech Republic.

Ambassador Hunte said, in these turbulent times, people all over the world are looking to the United Nations to promote development, peace and security. "The United Nations finds itself at a critical juncture, challenged by an extraordinary set of circumstances and the magnitude of new and existing problems. What, then, should the United Nations do? We must actively pursue the benefits of multilateralism. We must reaffirm the central role of the United Nations, the most important multilateral organization ever established, which has stood the test of time," he said.

In laying out the goals ahead, Ambassador Hunte urged the United Nations to remain focused on assisting Iraq, fighting terrorism, meeting global economic challenges, reducing poverty and combating AIDS and HIV.

He also called on delegates to consider suggestions for reforming the United Nations and strengthening the General Assembly, often overshadowed by the Security Council.

During the year ahead, the General Assembly is set to take up a wide range of issues, ranging from the crisis in the Middle East to the needs of women and children.