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Annan Warns of New World Divisions - 2003-12-03

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan says the United States should pursue international dialogue while confronting challenges like terrorism. The U.N. official spoke in Los Angeles, Tuesday evening. He warned that new divisions in the world threaten the common goals of the United States and the United Nations.

Mr. Annan recalled the U.S. role in creating the world body and promoting its successes, and says U.N. efforts have brought peace to war-torn lands, from El Salvador to East Timor. He says the terrorist attacks of 2001 led to a moment when the world was unified with the United States.

"But today, we see new divisions. We see disputes between the coalition that acted in Iraq and the many governments who opposed that action," he says. "We see too many unnecessary misunderstandings between some in the Islamic world and some in the West." He says the North-South divide between rich and poor nations is also more evident since the failure of world trade talks at Cancun, Mexico.

The U.N. official spoke at the 50th anniversary celebration of the Los Angeles World Affairs Council, an organization devoted to exploring global issues.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Negroponte also addressed the group. He says his country sees the United Nations as an important forum for the 21st Century. "We live in a world of interdependent economies, transnational terror networks, migratory health crises, environmental challenges, and conflicts that too rapidly spill from one state and region to the next," says Mr. Negroponte. "This is why the United States engages vigorously at the United Nations and supports it generously as it largest contributor."

Secretary-General Annan says U.N. successes of the past half-century were achieved with the help of American leaders like Presidents Truman and Eisenhower and President Franklin Roosevelt, who envisioned the world body but died before its creation. Mr. Annan says, today, division and acrimony threaten those achievements, while threats like AIDS and terrorism call for unity.

The official acknowledged U.N. failures, noting it did not stop the genocide in Rwanda, ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia or the excesses of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia.

However, he says the United Nations is indispensable to the world's security. And, he says the United States -- as the last superpower -- will be more effective and admired if it works through the international body. He urged the United States to engage in dialogue and patient diplomacy, and to exercise its leadership in a multilateral framework.