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U.N. summit leaders to adopt weak document
Updated: 2005-09-14 18:29

World leaders gathering for a U.N. summit to mark the 60th anniversary of the United Nations won't be adopting the sweeping blueprint that Secretary-General Kofi Annan envisioned to tackle poverty and overhaul the world body, the Associated Press reported.

Instead, the more than 160 presidents, prime ministers and monarchs attending a three-day U.N. summit that starts Wednesday will have before them a 35-page document that was continuously watered down during intense negotiations to win support from all 191 U.N. member states.

Nonetheless, Annan and the many ambassadors who spent day and night over the past week trying to reach agreement on hundreds of contested passages were relieved that there was a document for their leaders to approve.

Mark Malloch Brown, the secretary-general's chief of staff, said the situation "was heading off the rails" on Tuesday morning, with 140 passages and 27 issues still undecided.

In what he called "a high-risk gamble," Annan and the incoming and outgoing presidents of the General Assembly decided to drop the issues where there was no agreement, decide on language for which they thought they could win approval, and put a clean text to member states. It worked.

Late Tuesday afternoon, the General Assembly approved the draft and a visibly relieved Annan arrived at a long-delayed press conference and told reporters: "The good news is that we do have an outcome document."

"Obviously we didn't get everything we wanted, and with 191 member states it's not easy to get an agreement," Annan said. "All of us would have wanted more, but we can work with what we have been given, and I think it is an important step forward."

U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns, who played a key role, was similarly upbeat: "We had to compromise ... (but) it's a good beginning."

While 16 pages focused on development, outgoing General Assembly President Jean Ping said there wasn't the political will among richer countries to help Africa on a massive scale with a plan similar to the U.S. Marshall plan that helped Europe recover after World War II.

Among the leaders scheduled to attend the summit are President Bush. The presidents of Russia, China, Iran, Iraq and Pakistan are also attending along with the prime ministers of Britain, France, and Israel.

Security has been tightened, with streets around U.N. headquarters closed to traffic, boats patrolling the adjacent East River, and no airplanes allowed overhead.

The compromise document also failed to give Annan the authority to move jobs and make management changes that the United States, the European Union and others sought.

It didn't define terrorism, and it dropped the entire section on disarmament and nonproliferation, which Annan called "a real disgrace."

It expressed resolve to create a Human Rights Council to replace the discredited Human Rights Commission, but left the details to the General Assembly.

Its major achievements were the creation of a new Peacebuilding Commission to help countries emerging from conflict and acceptance by all U.N. members of the collective international responsibility to protect people from genocide, war crimes and ethnic cleansing.

As an example of what a new Peacebuilding Commission might do, officials from Burundi at an African summit with Annan on Tuesday lamented that donors had provided only 20 percent of $1 billion pledged to help rebuild the central African nation that is trying to recover from an 11-year war that killed a quarter of a million people.

"Don't expect Rome to be built in a day, it wasn't," Britain's U.N. Ambassador Emyr Jones-Parry warned. "Against the difficulty of this negotiation, it's complexity, this is a very substantial gain."

"The United Nations is a reflection of the world," Ping stressed. "We can only get as far as member states are prepared to go."

When Annan called on world leaders a year ago to take "bold decisions" on the way forward, he warned that if they didn't "history will take the decisions for you, and the interests of your peoples may go by default."

The secretary-general said he would have preferred stronger language in parts of the text, but "there were governments that were not willing to make the concessions necessary. There were spoilers also in the group; let's be quite honest about that."

While Annan refused to name any countries, Oxfam's Nicola Reindorp said: "Leaders will arrive to find that Cuba, Pakistan, Egypt, Iran, Syria, the United States and Venezuela have held the summit hostage."

"There is very little to celebrate in the latest U.N. Summit outcome document," she said in a statement. "We wanted a bold agenda to tackle poverty but instead we have a brochure showcasing past commitments."

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