We live in exciting times, a time of transition, a time of
convergence, walking across a bridge to which can never return:
Planning for the U.N. Millennium Summit has been in the
works for two years, including hanging posters throughout New York to
soothe residents navigating the inevitable traffic
The Great Being, wishing to reveal the prerequisites of
the peace and tranquillity of the world and the advancement
of its peoples, hath written: The time must come when the
imperative necessity for the holding of a vast, an
all-embracing assemblage of men will be universally realized.
The rulers and kings of the earth must needs attend it, and,
participating in its deliberations, must consider such ways
and means as will lay the foundations of the world's Great
Peace amongst men. Such a peace demandeth that the Great
Powers should resolve, for the sake of the tranquillity of
the peoples of the earth, to be fully reconciled among
[Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh Revealed After the Kitáb-i-Aqdas:
LAWH-I-MAQSUD (Tablet of Maqsud)]
The session, from today through Friday, is billed as the largest-ever
gathering of world leaders, even bigger than the world bodys 50th
anniversary celebrations five years ago, which drew some 118 heads of
state and government.
But this year the program is more ambitious.
As the leaders address the General Assembly for a proposed but
rarely executed five minutes each, those not speaking are in
closed round-table discussions to map out myriad programs that would
help lift people out of poverty, prevent wars and save the
On the sidelines and in some forums, the critical Middle
East peace process is the subject of meetings between President
Bill Clinton, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian
leader Yasser Arafat.
However, Barak, who was one of the first leaders to arrive in New York
City on Monday, warned that he will only give a Mideast peace treaty a
few weeks to be concluded, raising the possibility of failure ahead of
crucial talks with President Clinton during this weeks U.N.
The formal deadline for a treaty, Sept. 13, is widely expected to be
missed. Barak has said it is now up to the Palestinians to compromise,
and Israels Foreign Ministry said Monday the prime minister is not
planning to present new ideas to President Clinton when they meet today.
Congo on Some Agendas
African leaders hope for a meeting on the Congos many-sided civil
war, although Congo President Laurent Kabila will be nowhere in sight.
In Sierra Leone, rebels are fighting the government as well as U.N.
A new president, Abdiqassim Salad Hassan, elected a week ago, will fill
Somalias U.N. seat for the first time in a decade.
In preparation for the meeting, Annan called in an April report for
benevolent globalization in the 21st century to ensure that the
information revolution did not leave billions of people behind in
When the summit meeting ends, there are to be commitments to ambitious
global targets. World leaders will pledge to halve the number of the
worlds people who live on less than $1 a day. There are more than
a billion such people.
Almost an equal number many of them the same ones do
not have access to clean water. Their number should also be cut
in half by 2015, leaders will say. By that year too, a primary
school education should be provided to all boys and
The leaders will also be asked to halt and reverse the spread of
HIV/AIDS by 2015.
Getting Past Talk?
With every issue on the table, many are asking whether anything but
vague statements can result despite the specific targets Annan has
I would expect the summit to come up with a program of
action not just for the United Nations but also for the members
states, Annan told the Royal Institute of International
Affairs in London via an audio link on Monday.
Yes, we have a major problems, so lets solve them
together, he said.
Issuing a stark warning to member states that they were not doing enough
to back the organizations peacekeeping role in trouble spots
around the globe, Annan signaled that this weeks Millennium
Summit would be no celebration for the United Nations
It sometimes seems as if it is when the fire breaks out we
begin to think of building a fire house, he said. When we
have the capacity to do good we should muster the will to act, he said.
Within the summit, a series of mini-summits is planned. Leaders
representing the 15 countries on the Security Council will discuss
peacekeeping, especially in Africa, and a recent blue-ribbon panel
report on how to recruit better-trained and more professional troops.
Leaders of the five countries that are permanent council members are
likely to meet separately: Clinton, Russian President Vladimir Putin,
French President Jacques Chirac, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and
Chinese President Jiang Zemin.
In addition, more than 700 one-on-one meetings between leaders are
expected, with the United Nations setting up cubicles for those not
meeting at hotels around town.
Those Not on the Guest List...
Not joining the limousine-and-sirens fest is Iraqi President Saddam
Hussein, who has not left his country for at least a decade.
Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi also has not said he is attending, and Kim
Jong-il of North Korea has declined. But Cuban President Fidel Castro,
who came to the 1995 U.N. anniversary celebration, has decided to come.
Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, under indictment by a U.N. tribunal
for war crimes in Kosovo, will not be in New York.
Afghanistans ruler, Mullah Mohammed Omar Mujahid, was not invited
because somebody else is sitting in his chair. Burhanuddin Rabbani, the
president driven out of Kabul and into exile in 1996, is speaking because
the Taliban government is not recognized by the United Nations.
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
The Color of Dissent
New York police will have their hands full over the next few days, with
more than 150 world leaders expected in town for the United Nations
Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik says more than 90 demonstrations are
planned for the three-day event, which begins tomorrow. Its being
billed as the largest gathering ever of heads of state and government.
Theres already been some trouble. An Iranian man was arrested
over the weekend for throwing yellow paint at a car carrying Irans
president. Three other Iranians were arrested for dumping yellow paint in
or near the hotel where the Iranian delegation is staying.
A spokesman for an Iranian dissident group says yellow is the color
The Associated Press
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