Bahai News - U.N. Summit Ends with Bold Goals, Little Peace

U.N. Summit Ends with Bold Goals, Little Peace

Friday, September 08, 2000

By Paul Taylor

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - A unique U.N. Millennium Summit ended on Friday by adopting ambitious goals for the United Nations to strengthen peacekeeping and reduce poverty, disease and illiteracy in the 21st century.

But three days of set speeches, round tables and closed-door diplomacy by the largest gathering of world leaders in history yielded scant progress toward resolving conflicts and defuse tensions in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

A Millennium Declaration, adopted by acclamation, pledged a renewed drive in pursuit of peace, security, disarmament and the eradication of poverty, especially in Africa.

"We are determined to establish a just and lasting peace all over the world in accordance with the objectives of the Charter," the roughly 150 kings, presidents and government leaders vowed.

They endorsed targets set by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to halve by 2015 the 22 percent of the world's population existing on less than $1 a day, and halt and reverse the spread of AIDS, malaria and other major diseases by that date.

The most practical measures adopted call for a radical overhaul of chronically underfunded and overstrained U.N. peacekeeping operations to provide better trained and equipped troops faster to defuse conflicts and prevent massacres.

The summit's co-chairs, presidents Sam Nujoma of Namibia and Tarja Halonen on Finland, hailed the birth of a new spirit of global solidarity in the world organization, but Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez cautioned: "Many of our peoples are at the gates of hell."

On the sidelines, President Clinton's bid to break a Middle East peace deadlock appeared to be foundering and Africa's troublespots defied diplomatic efforts at resolution.

The final hours of the sprawling conference mirrored the ebbing months of Clinton's presidency -- full of bold ambitions for peace and world economic development but with few solutions to stubborn regional conflicts.

The president vented frustration at his unsuccessful efforts to bridge the gap between Israel and the Palestinians, telling Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern during a photo session: "This Middle East thing -- it's maddening."

Clinton also sought with little success to promote a peace dialogue between China and Taiwan in his first meeting in a year of bumpy relations with Chinese President Jiang Zemin.

In an exchange described as frank but friendly, they aired differences over Taiwan, religious freedom in China and Tibet, and U.S. missile defense plans.

AFRICA'S PLIGHT TO THE FORE

African leaders expressed satisfaction that they had pushed their continent's life-and-death struggle with poverty, disease and war higher up the world's agenda -- at least momentarily.

Led by South Africa's Thabo Mbeki and Nigeria's Olusegun Obasanjo, they made impassioned pleas for debt relief, funding to combat the scourge of AIDS and an overhaul of U.N. institutions to cope speedily with crises and conflicts.

But hardline stances by the protagonists dashed any prospect of a diplomatic resolution to the long-running war in the Democratic Republic of Congo and to Zimbabwe's violent campaign of land seizures from white farmers.

President Robert Mugabe unleashed an anti-colonial tirade against critics of Zimbabwe's land reform program, seeming to slam the door on efforts by Annan to mediate an end to the crisis that has killed at least 31 people since February.

Growing concern among both industrialized and developing countries at soaring world oil prices was another theme on the sidelines of the summit.

On the eve of important meetings of OPEC countries, Annan expressed concern at the potential effect on the world economy of high energy prices and urged producers to be "especially sensitive" to the impact of their decisions.

Palestinian President Yasser Arafat returned home without meeting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak to attend a session of the Palestinian Central Council on Saturday, expected to authorize him to delay the declaration of a Palestinian state on Sept. 13 to allow time for further talks with Israel.

A Palestinian official said low-level negotiations would resume soon, but such talks have rarely yielded breakthroughs and the sides are still deadlocked on control over Jerusalem, which thwarted an agreement at the Camp David summit in July.

INDONESIA UNDER SCRUTINY

The start of the summit was overshadowed on Wednesday by the savage killing of three U.N. refugee workers in West Timor by Indonesian militiamen hostile to the independence of East Timor, dramatizing perils facing U.N. staff in crisis spots.

As the summit ended, the Security Council was debating a toughly-worded resolution that would demand Indonesia take action to disarm the militias and send a U.N. fact-finding mission to West Timor.

Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid, whose shaky hold over his sprawling country and its armed forces was exposed by the incident, told reporters the situation was now under control and "very good" in West Timor.

But the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Richard Holbrooke, told reporters it was unclear how much control Wahid had over the military. He said it was the responsibility of Indonesia to end what he called the terrorizing of East Timorese refugees in camps in West Timor.


©Copyright 2000, Reuter

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