United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan says the world organization can offer legitimacy to the fight against terrorism.

Speaking to the U.N. General Assembly Monday, Mr. Annan said the September 11 attacks on the United States were also an attack on the United Nations, striking everything it stands for including the idea of a united human family.

The Secretary General said there is no doubt that there must be a sustained and comprehensive strategy to defeat terrorism and that it must include nations around the world. "Let us, therefore, respond to it in a way that strengthens international peace and security by cementing the ties among nations and not subjecting them to new strains," he told the assembly. "This organization is the natural forum in which to build such a universal coalition. It alone can give global legitimacy to the long-term struggle against terrorism."

Mr. Annan said that the terrorist attacks in no way diminish the importance of the broader missions of the United Nations in such things as fighting poverty, protecting the global environment and stopping the spread of HIV-AIDS.

Mr. Annan spoke at what was to have been the opening of the Assembly's general debate featuring heads of state from more than 70 nations. That event was postponed after the terrorist attacks so as not to put further stress on New York police officers who would have provided security for the world leaders.