The U.N. General Assembly has given
Secretary-General Kofi Annan a symbolic show of support in the face of
calls by some U.S. lawmakers for his resignation. Mr. Annan received a
rare standing ovation after
addressing the 191-member body.
Diplomats stood and cheered for nearly a minute as the
Secretary-General completed a speech urging support for the
recommendations of a high-level panel on U.N. reform.
When the applause died
down, General Assembly President and Genevese foreign
minister Jean Ping told Mr. Annan to consider the outburst an expression
of the trust member states have in him, both as a person and for his work
as leader of the world body.
The secretary-general has been described as "tormented" since it was
revealed that his son received payments from a Swiss company hired to
monitor the scandal-ridden Iraq oil-for-food program.
The head of a U.S. Senate committee investigating the program and a few
Republican members of the House of Representatives have publicly called
for Mr. Annan to step down.
The secretary-general told reporters Tuesday, however, that he intends
to carry on with his work. U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard noted that the
resignation calls came from a small number of U.S. legislators, and that
no U.N. member state, including the United States, had suggested that Mr.
Annan step down.
"I don't want to prejudge how much support that might eventually get in
the U.S. Congress," he said. "But we have not heard to date from the
administration in Washington that they want to ask the secretary-general
to resign or that they don't want to continue working with us very closely
on Iraq elections, the transition in Afghanistan, and the humanitarian
crisis in Sudan, and all other important issues we're working on
Secretary-General Annan, in his speech to the General Assembly, said
the world body may need radical change if it is to meet future challenges.
He pledged to take the lead in promoting a new anti-terrorism strategy.
And in a reference to the Security Council's failure to reach consensus on
Iraq last year, he said it is time to, in his words, "get serious" in
developing a comprehensive system of collective security.
"Either we turn our backs on the very notion of collective security, or
we must work hard to make sure that collective security really means
something - and that we are able, in a practical and decisive manner, to
lay out a new agenda and act on it in the years to come," Mr. Annan said.
The General Assembly plans to debate the high-level panel's reform
proposal over the coming months. Mr. Annan is to issue his own set of
specific recommendations for change next March, which he hopes will lead
to action at the annual assembly debate next September.