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Smaller nations demand strong UN
( 2003-09-27 10:20) (Agencies)

Smaller nations stressed Friday the United Nations remains the best forum to negotiate peace and promote development even though its relevance was threatened by war in Iraq and the deadly bombing of agency headquarters in Baghdad.

"Inescapably, the U.N. remains the central, indispensable forum in which we can collectively and democratically respond to the challenges that we in common face," said Sri Lanka's prime minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe. "But the U.N. itself is under enormous stress."

At the annual ministerial meeting of the U.N. General Assembly, some nations boasted that the march toward peace in their homelands showcased what the world body could still accomplish and blamed unilateralism for the breakdown of security in postwar Iraq.

"Current developments have displayed that without the centripetal pull provided by international cooperation and partnership through the U.N., the world would tend to drift apart," Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said.

"The rich would become richer, the poor poorer, conflict and disharmony would erupt along political, ethnic and even religious fissures."

Botswana, a peaceful southern African nation, pointed out the U.N.'s role in bringing peace to Liberia's capital although fighting continues in other parts of the West African nation.

"It is a welcome development that the Security Council has decided to send a peacekeeping mission to that war-torn country," Botswana Foreign Minister M.S. Merafhe said.

He reminded the assembly that "small states such as my own place great hope in multilateral partnership and cooperation, for on their own, or in their small regional groups, the challenges they face are formidable."

On the sidelines, diplomats tried to deal with the impasse between Israel and the Palestinians.

Officials from the so-called Quartet the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia who devised a "road map" for peacemaking between Israel and the Palestinians met Friday, though none gave any indication the current stalemate in implementing the plan for peace and an eventual Palestinian state could be broken soon.

Cuba's foreign minister used his address to the assembly to condemn the United States for attacking Iraq without U.N. backing and for stalling the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.

Felipe Perez Roque blamed the United States for using its veto in the Security Council to block resolutions critical of Israel, and demanded "a profound process of democratization of the United Nations."

"The situation is already untenable. Proof of it is the Security Council's inability to prevent the war in Iraq first and then to even demand the government of Israel refrain from expelling or murdering the leader of the Palestinian people," he said, referring to Yasser Arafat.

Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou said the United Nations could learn from the European Union, which he credited for helping end a decade of Balkan conflicts and smooth the relationship between Greece and Turkey.

 
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