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Food, Energy and Financial Crises Highlighted at UN Annual Debate


On the final day of the annual U.N. General Assembly session, delegates heard from representatives of more than 30 countries on a number of topics. From United Nations headquarters in New York, VOA's Margaret Besheer has more.

South African Minister of Foreign Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma touched on the topics that dominated the week-long debate. "The confluence of the food, fuel and financial crises, as well as the effects of climate change, pose a real threat of undermining the progress made by developing countries in the struggle against poverty and under-development."

Member states called for global cooperation to tackle these problems.

"The response to all global challenges begins at home. However, the sum of national actions must drive a collective effort at the international level," said Canada's Deputy Foreign Minister, Leonard Edwards.

The need for ending conflicts, both old and new, in Africa, the Middle East, South Asia and the Caucasus, also were highlighted.

Other nations, meanwhile, used the podium to defend their policies and press for their national interests.

Burmese Foreign Minister U Nyan Win, urged the lifting of unilateral sanctions against his country. In a reference to the United States and the European Union, he said the sanctions they have imposed are "unwarranted", "unfair and immoral," and prevent Burma from making full use of its natural resources to improve its food and energy security. "In order for us to fulfill our potential, we need unfettered access to markets. We need modern technology. We need investment. The sooner the unjust sanctions are revoked and the barriers removed, the sooner the country will be in a position to become the rice bowl of the region and a reliable source of energy," he said.

Burma has been under increasing international pressure to institute democratic reforms, free political prisoners and end oppression against minority groups.

Dozens of heads of state and government were at U.N. headquarters for the annual meeting, providing the opportunity for many bi-lateral meetings among counterparts.

Also on the sidelines, $16 billion was committed from the private and public sectors for initiatives to reduce poverty and disease worldwide.