World leaders are set to wrap up a three-day summit at the United Nations with a declaration of goals for U.N. reform and global poverty alleviation. The gathering has produced hundreds of speeches, and a few hopeful developments.
The 60th anniversary observance ends Friday with a vote on a document that is the result of months of negotiations on how to update the world body for the 21st century. The outcome is far less than had been hoped, but could set in motion several reforms, among them a replacement of the discredited U.N. human rights commission.
Day two of the summit was filled with speeches from presidents and ministers representing 80 of the world body's 191 member states. Among them were the leaders of Russia, India, China, Japan, Iraq and Israel.
But the spotlight was outside the Assembly hall. In talks on the sidelines of the summit, European foreign ministers pleaded with Iran to reconsider their proposal for economic and other incentives in return for freezing its uranium enrichment program.
After a frank 25-minute meeting with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said he was hopeful Iran would announce a halt to its enrichment activities Saturday during a General Assembly address. "We explained once again that the European position is unchanged, Iran knows our position, our proposal is on the table, and we are waiting for the announced new proposal by the Iranian president and he will do that on Saturday and we will examine these new proposals and see in which direction we can move," said Mr. Fischer.
The summit was the scene of diplomatic sparring on several other fronts Thursday. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, after meeting Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, used his summit speech to reiterate New Delhi's charge that Pakistan is sponsoring terrorism in Kashmir, a charge Islamabad denies. "For several years, India has faced cross-border terrorism directed against its unity and territorial integrity," said Mr. Singh. "We shall never succumb to or compromise with terror, in Jammu and Kashmir or elsewhere."
At a news conference, President Musharraf declined to criticize his Indian counterpart's comments. He said the two sides disagree about who are terrorists and who are freedom fighters. "On one side the Indian position is there, of cross border terrorism, which we call freedom struggle," said Mr. Musharraf. "I don't want to get involved in definition, because this is too complicated, and unnecessarily creates misunderstandings. Any violence against civilians is terrorism."
Russian and Chinese leaders both used summit speeches Thursday to urge the United Nations to take the lead in the fight against terrorism. President Hu Jintao called for a new global security mechanism. "We must cultivate a new security concept featuring mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality and cooperation," said Mr. Hu. "The United Nations, as the core of the collective security mechanism, must play an enhanced rather than a weakened role in this regard."
In other summit developments, Israel's foreign minister met with his counterparts from Muslim nations Qatar and Indonesia. A day earlier, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon shook hands with Pakistan's President Musharraf. Also, a U.N. treaty empowering countries to prosecute officials accused of stealing public funds received enough signatures to go into force.
Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez received the biggest round of applause in the assembly hall Thursday when he scolded the United States. The populist South American leader called the U.N. reform plan set for approval Friday "illegal", and suggested that the United Nations should move out of New York to protest the war in Iraq. He said a better location for the world body might be Jerusalem.