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Annan Tries To Define U.N.'s Role

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Addressing a scaled-down meeting of the General Assembly, Secretary-General Kofi Annan declared Monday that only the United Nations can give "global legitimacy" to the long-term struggle against terrorism.

He urged all countries to work together to strengthen international peace and security "by cementing the ties among nations, and not subjecting them to new strains."

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov echoed his call, telling the General Assembly "it is necessary to strengthen and enhance the role of the United Nations as an indispensable instrument for maintaining international peace and security and for mobilizing people of the world against new, unprecedented threats."

Last week, the General Assembly postponed its annual gathering of global leaders because of security concerns following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. Nonetheless, the 189 nations in the world body are going ahead with their work program at a lower level.

In somber tones, Annan told diplomats from all parts of the globe in the hushed General Assembly chamber that the attacks struck at everything the United Nations stands for: "peace, freedom, tolerance, human rights, the very idea of a united family."

"In truth, this was a blow not against one city or one country, but against every one of us," said the secretary-general, who is from Ghana. "It was not only an attack on our innocent fellow citizens — well over 60 member states are affected, including, I am sad to say, my own country — but an attack on our shared values."

"Let us respond by reaffirming, with all our strength, our common humanity and the values we share. We shall not allow them to be overthrown," he declared.

"This organization is the natural forum in which to build ... a universal coalition," Annan said. "It alone can give global legitimacy to the long-term struggle against terrorism."

The secretary-general did not address specific measures in the speech, but last week he said U.N. member states must stop providing shelter and logistical support for terrorists, halt the laundering of money used to finance terrorist acts, and share information on terrorists and their organizations.

Annan said Monday he expects the General Assembly at its Oct. 1 plenary meeting on international terrorism to stress the urgency for all nations to ratify, and above all implement, a dozen legally binding conventions and protocols to fight terrorism — and to consider new ones.

"The need for a vigorous response to terrorism, and for a sustained, comprehensive strategy to defeat it, is not in doubt," he said. "But we also need to give greater urgency to our humanitarian task of relieving the victims of conflict and starvation — especially, at this time, those displaced from their homes in Afghanistan."

In trying to build an international coalition against terrorism, the secretary-general has been speaking at churches, mosques and synagogues and talking tworld leaders. Last week, French President Jacques Chirac and the foreign ministers of Germany, Kuwait and Russia came to the U.N. headquarters to see him.

On Monday afternoon, he is scheduled to hold talks with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri.

By Edith M. Lederer
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