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UN Debate Highlights Kosovo, Reform

World leaders addressed the U.N. General Assembly annual debate for a third day, Thursday. They discussed topics of importance to their own countries and to the international community. From U.N. headquarters in New York, VOA's Margaret Besheer has more.

Many leaders this week have spoken about the need for U.N. reform, and in particular restructuring of the Security Council. African leaders have been very vocal about expanding that body's membership to include a permanent African representative. President Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of the Congo spoke through a translator.

"The continent of Africa must be represented on a permanent basis within that important body," said Joseph Kabila.

On the agenda of European leaders was the issue of Kosovo's final status. Talks on that subject are taking place on the sidelines of the General Assembly.

Serbian President Boris Tadic says his country is ready to compromise in talks on the status of its breakaway Kosovo province, but ruled out independence for the area.

Serbia offers solutions that would solve, through mutual agreement and with the implementation of European values and rules, an old inter-ethnic conflict for good and open the prospects of reconciliation and co-existence within a modern, democratic and European Serbia," said Boris Tadic. "My country is ready for a compromise."

Meanwhile, Colombian President Alvaro Uribe says his country would welcome the involvement of U.S. officials in a long-standing hostage standoff with his nation's Marxist rebels known as the FARC.

Mr. Uribe says his government supports an initiative from Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to have U.S. lawmakers join negotiations for the release of the captives, three of whom are Americans.

"We welcome the positive willingness of the goverment of the United States," he said.

Leaders also spoke about the need for peace in the Middle East and in Africa, as well as the need for immediate action to address climate change.

The annual debate continues Friday with leaders from Russia, China, Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia scheduled to speak.