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UN Annual Debate Wraps Up in New York

Nicolas Maduro, Foreign Minister of Venezuela, addresses the General Assembly during the 66th U.N. General Assembly at UN Headquarters Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2011.
Nicolas Maduro, Foreign Minister of Venezuela, addresses the General Assembly during the 66th U.N. General Assembly at UN Headquarters Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2011.
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Margaret Besheer

On the final day of the U.N. General Assembly’s annual debate, several countries took to the podium. Russia called for the lifting of the No-Fly-Zone in Libya, while Pakistan reiterated its resolve to fight terrorism; and North Korea and Venezuela both had harsh words for the United States.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov noted that this year’s meeting took place against the backdrop of large-scale change in North Africa and the Middle East.

He noted the recent authorization of a U.N. support mission for Libya and said it is time the Security Council-imposed, NATO-operated No-Fly-Zone is lifted. The zone was established in March to protect civilians from attack by the now ousted regime of Moammar Gadhafi and was recently renewed by NATO for another 90 days.

Pakistan’s young female foreign minister, Hina Rabbani Khar, said few countries have been as brutally ravaged by terrorism as hers. She said 30,000 Pakistani civilians, police and security forces have been killed since 2002 and the attacks continue.

“Numerous politicians have lost sons and brothers and fathers at the hands of terrorists. Our streets are filled with armed police posts. We cannot enter our parks, or shopping centers or churches or mosques without being search and frisked. Terrorists have attacked our military installations, attacked the gravesites of our spiritual leaders, attacked our minorities and attacked the very idea of Pakistan," he said.

Minister Khar said Pakistan is determined to eliminate terrorism, not just from its soil, but from the region and the world, and she called for enhanced international cooperation to wipe it out.

Her remarks came as a White House spokesman urged the Pakistani government “to take action” to deal with the Haqqani Network, a Taliban-linked group that Washington says conducts attacks in Afghanistan from its base in Pakistan’s North Waziristan tribal region.

Meanwhile, Burma's foreign minister U Wunna Maung Lwin told the General Assembly that his government’s efforts to improve the lives of its citizens are hampered by economic sanctions and urged their lifting.

Burma, which is also known as Myanmar, held its first elections in two decades last November. The government is supposed to be moving away from a military one to a democratic one, but critics say change is coming too slowly, particularly on the human rights front.

The minister said 20,000 prisoners were released between May and July in an amnesty, and that more would be released in the future, but he did not say if that included any of the 2,000 political prisoners in the country's jails.

Each year at the annual debate there are always countries that rant against the United States and its western allies. This year was no different.

Despite recent talks between the two countries, North Korea’s Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs, Pak Kil Yon, blamed the tensions on the Korean peninsula on the United States. “As long as the hostility exists between the DPRK and the U.S. as the parties to the armistice agreement leveling guns at each other, the mistrust and confrontation will not dissipate and no denuclearization of the Korean peninsula will be possible," he said.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has been undergoing cancer treatment, so he did not personally deliver his annual diatribe. He sent an emissary to do it for him.

The envoy accused the United States of conducting an “imperialist war” for the last decade and scolded the United Nations for not stopping it. He was especially angry about the Security Council intervention in Libya, which ended with the ousting of his friend and ally Moammar Gadhafi.

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