U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon says the crisis in Sudan's Darfur region, peace in the Middle East and nuclear disarmament are among his top priorities. He also says strong partnership between the U.N. and the United States is important. VOA's Sean Maroney reports.

In a speech prepared for delivery in Washington Tuesday, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon spoke with optimism that, although the challenges facing the international community have grown more complex, the United Nations should thrive.

Mr. Ban spoke at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

In the text of his speech, which was made available in advance, Mr. Ban outlined a number of priorities for his first year in office, including the ongoing crisis in Sudan's western region of Darfur.

He said he will attend the African Union's summit in Ethiopia later this month. He promised to work closely with leaders in Africa, as well as others, and to build a consensus for a joint U.N.-AU force for Sudan.

The new U.N. chief also stressed the need to make serious efforts for progress in the Middle East.

"Middle East is a source of grave concern," said Ban. "Particularly when it comes to Iraq, international community should have all possible assistance to help Iraqi government and people to restore peace and stability and recover from economic devastation."

Peace in the Middle East was also a key topic of discussions Mr. Ban had earlier in the day with President Bush at the White House.

Mr. Ban also pledged U.N. support in the nuclear non-proliferation efforts aimed at countries, such as North Korea and Iran.

Secretary General Ban said strong partnership between the United Nations and United States is a key element of the world body's success.

"United Nations needs strong participation and active participation and strong support of the United States, as U.N. and U.S. have a shared objective of promoting human rights, democracy and freedom, and peace and security, as well as, mutual co-prosperity," he said.

He said such a partnership is essential especially now as the United Nations faces some of its biggest challenges.