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Annan Urges Asian, African Leaders to Back UN Reform

Kofi Annan (File photo)
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan Friday asked a gathering of African and Asian leaders to back his historical proposals to reform the United Nations.

Mr. Annan made his impassioned plea at the opening of the Asian-African Summit being held in the Indonesian capitol of Jakarta, where more than 40 heads of state and officials from some 100 countries have gathered.

The U.N. chief says the developing world stands to gain from his reform proposals to improve security and human rights.

"Your peoples pay the highest price for inaction in the face of massive violations of human rights, and for the strains placed on the U.N.'s peacekeeping, peace building, and human rights machinery," he said.

Mr. Annan's proposals to overhaul the global body where unveiled in March - at a time when the United Nations is reeling from the effects of the oil-for-food program scandal in Iraq and sexual abuse charges against U.N. peacekeepers.

But his plan faces objections from many nations - large and small - and Mr. Annan is calling for a spirit of compromise to achieve shared objectives.

Among the most controversial ideas are to expand the membership of the Security Council and to create two new peace bodies. Mr. Annan argues this would allow developing nations a greater voice in international affairs.

"I also believe they should create two new intergovernmental bodies," he said. "These intergovernmental bodies, a peace building commission, which would bring together the various actors involved in helping countries move from war to lasting peace, and a human rights council in which states from all regions would be represented."

The U.N. secretary-general is also pushing for increased spending by wealthy nations - calling for them to contribute .7 percent of their gross national income on foreign aid programs.

Mr. Annan implored African and Asian leaders to go to New York in September for a summit to endorse his reform proposals.

"The success of this agenda depends heavily on you, the leaders of three-quarters of the world's population," he said. " For the sake of your people's, this is the time to be creative and to be bold."

Mr. Annan is discussing his proposals privately with Asian and African leaders while in Jakarta.