World leaders seek talks on financial crisis, multilateral reforms
Thursday, 25 September 2008

AFP, UNITED NATIONS - World leaders demanded urgent steps to contain the global financial crisis and a sweeping reform of multilateral institutions, including the Security Council, during the UN General Assembly's annual debate.

A ministerial meeting of six major powers trying to scale down Iran's nuclear ambitions, scheduled for Thursday on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, was meanwhile called off after Russia said it would not take part.
But on the first day Tuesday of the 192-member Assembly's debate, the world's financial meltdown took center stage, with UN chief Ban Ki-moon stressing the need to "restore order to the international financial markets."
In a farewell speech to the assembly, US President George W. Bush assured worried world leaders that his administration and the US Congress would approve an emergency 700-billion-dollar Wall Street bailout "in the urgent time frame required."
French President Nicolas Sarkozy said those leaders most directly concerned by the issue had a duty "to meet before the end of the year to examine together the lessons of the most serious financial crisis the world has experienced since that of the 1930s."
The French leader, who holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, later told a press conference that he had in mind a "G8 format," referring to the eight leading economic powers, that could be opened to "emerging countries."
Bush also urged the world body to fully implement sanctions against North Korea and Iran over their nuclear programs, warning: "We must not relent until our people are safe from this threat to civilization."
In Moscow, the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement: "We do not see any fire that requires us to toss everything aside and meet to discuss Iran's nuclear program in the middle of a packed week at the United Nations General Assembly."
And Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad vowed that Tehran would "resist" Western bullies trying to prevent the country from acquiring civilian nuclear technology.
He lashed out equally at Israel and its chief ally the United States, saying "the Zionist regime is on a definite slope to collapse and there is no way for it to get out of the cesspool created by itself and its supporters."
Visiting Israeli President Shimon Peres slammed Ahmadinejad's speech, accusing the Iranian leader of "putting on the mantle of a preacher and using to deepen hatred."
"Iran is today the center of terror," he added.
In their remarks, Sarkozy and his Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva pressed for a sweeping reform of multilateral institutions, including the powerful Security Council.
The French leader said enlarging the 15-member UN Security Council as well as the G8 club of leading industrialized nations -- Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United States and Russia -- was not "just a matter of fairness, (but) also the necessary condition for being able to act effectively."
Lula for his part said that "only legitimate and effective instruments can assure collective security," adding: "Today's structure has been frozen for six decades and does not relate to the challenges of today's world."
He welcomed the General Assembly's decision last week to begin inter-governmental talks on expanding the powerful Security Council -- which comprises 10 rotating, non-permanent members and five, veto-wielding permanent ones (China, United States, France, Britain and Russia) -- no later than next February 28.
The thorny issue of how to enlarge a body that has remained largely unchanged since the establishment of the United Nations in 1945 has for years divided the UN membership.
Just four months before he leaves office at the end of his eight-year run at the White House, Bush also leveled some of his toughest-yet criticism at Moscow over its war with Georgia.
"The United Nations charter sets forth the equal rights of nations large and small. Russia's invasion of Georgia was a violation of those words," he said, vowing to keep supporting the former Soviet republic's territorial integrity.
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili challenged the United Nations not to allow its principles to be "crushed" by Russia.
He called for an independent international probe into the five-day war between his country and Russia in August over South Ossetia and asked the world body to ensure that the French-brokered truce deal is observed and for the peaceful resolution of Georgia's separatist conflicts.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner for his part said here that a planned international meeting on the breakaway Georgian enclaves of South Ossetia and Abhazia, scheduled for October 15 in Geneva, was being downgraded from the ministerial to the expert level because of disagreement with Moscow.

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