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World Leaders Address UN General Assembly


Climate change, sustainable development, terrorism and the proliferation of nuclear weapons topped the agendas of several world leaders speaking before the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday. From United Nations headquarters in New York, VOA's Margaret Besheer has more on the first day of the annual debate.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced to the assembly that his country would disregard U.N. Security Council resolutions demanding it suspend uranium enrichment.

"I officially announce that in our opinion the nuclear issue of Iran is now closed and has turned into an ordinary Agency matter," said Ahmadinejad.

Some nations fear Iran's nuclear activities are intended for building an atomic weapon, a charge that country denies. Earlier, French President Nicolas Sarkozy warned the assembly that allowing Iran to attain nuclear weapons would be an "unacceptable risk to stability in the region and the world."

Iran's neighbor, Afghanistan, also addressed the assembly. President Hamid Karzai said that terrorism continues to be one of his country's most serious challenges.

"The past two years have witnessed a significant increase in terrorist attacks, carried out with new and brutal tactics such as beheadings, kidnappings and the burning of schools and clinics," said Karzai.

Climate change and its link to responsible and sustainable development topped the agendas of many leaders, particularly those from the developing world. South African President Thabo Mbeki noted that many countries in Africa cannot attain the Millennium Development Goals of eradicating poverty by 2015 on their own.

"There is an urgent need for massive resource transfers through development assistance, investment, trade, technology transfers and human resource development to these poor countries if we are to achieve the development goals and successfully adapt to the devastating impacts of climate change," said Thabo Mbeki.

The theme of this year's debate is "Responding to Climate Change" and the President of Indonesia, who is to host a conference on the subject later this year in Bali, said that meeting must result in a new roadmap on global warming.

Earlier Tuesday, U.S. President George Bush gave a wide-ranging speech before the assembly on education, the eradication of poverty and disease, and on human rights. He announced new sanctions against Burma's authoritarian military government, and urged other nations to follow suit.

Wednesday, the General Assembly will hear from 31 world leaders. Among them Iraq, Cuba, Zimbabwe, Georgia and Nigeria.