U.N. Opens its Millennium Summit
Clinton Calls for Resources for U.N. Peacekeepers
U.S. President Bill Clinton addresses the United Nations General
Assembly during the Millennium Summit at the United Nations in New
York today. (Ray Stubblebine/Reuters)
N E W Y O R K, Sept. 6 An unprecedented gathering of world leaders
opened today to chart the course of the United Nations in the 21st century
particularly its efforts to forge peace.
The meeting was clouded by a faraway reminder of the challenges facing the international body: the
killings of three U.N. aid workers in West Timor.
President Clinton said he was deeply saddened to learn of the
brutal slaying of the three workers and told the the U.N. Millennium
Summit, the largest-ever gathering of world leaders, that the United
Nations must be better prepared to confront such hostilities.
Increasingly, the United Nations has been called into situations
where brave people seek reconciliation but where the enemies seek to
undermine it, Clinton said, citing U.N. peacekeeping operations in East
Timor and Sierra Leone.
But in both cases, the U.N. did not have the tools to finish the
job. We must provide those tools, with peacekeepers who can be rapidly
deployed with the right training and equipment, missions well-defined and
well-led, with the necessary civilian police, Clinton said.
He specifically called on the Indonesian authorities to put a stop
to these abuses. Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid was in the
Minute of Silence Observed
At the urging of the U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the leaders held a
minute of silence at the start of the meeting to commemorate the deaths of
the three aid workers slain today after an angry pro-Indonesian mob and
militiamen attacked and burned the office of the U.N. High Commissioner
for Refugees in West Timor.
Annan announced the attack to the summit, telling leaders it was a
somber reminder of the dangers U.N. staff face every day.
Even before rioters overwhelmed the U.N. refugee agency in the
Indonesian-controlled territory, there were no illusions that the
three-day summit in New York would in itself change the world and cure it
of its ills.
The problems seem huge, Annan said, listing poverty, the AIDS
epidemic, wars and environmental degradation. But in today’s world, given
the technology and the resources around, we have the means to tackle them.
If we have the will, we can deal with them.
Push for Mideast Peace
His right arm stretched out for emphasis, Israel’s prime minister today
asked Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to join him in making painful
concessions for peace, saying a historic opportunity must not be missed.
We are at the Rubicon and no one of us can cross it alone, Ehud
Barak told the summit as Arafat listened impassively, his face grim.
The Palestinian leader gave no sign in his speech that he would
yield. Stabbing his index finger into the air, Arafat insisted on full
Palestinian sovereignty over traditionally Arab east Jerusalem, a demand
Israel rejects. The coming days, he said, may be the ultimate chance for
the present peace process.
The two leaders spoke just hours before U.S. President Bill Clinton
was to meet them separately in perhaps a final effort to reach a peace
Clinton said time was running short. They [Israelis and
Palestinians] have the chance to do it, Clinton told the summit, but
like all life’s chances, it is fleeting and about to pass. There is not a
moment to lose.
Arafat has said he would unilaterally declare a Palestinian state on
Israel and the Palestinian were pessimistic about Clinton’s chances
of resolving the thorniest dispute, over who will be sovereign at holy
shrines in Jerusalem, the city claimed by both Israel and the Palestinians
as a capital.
In addition to the main proceedings at the United Nations, world
leaders are expected to hold bilateral talks. Experts believe the most
challenging of these will be President Clinton’s separate meetings with
Arafat and Barak
Meanwhile, heads of state are expected to use the three days of
speeches, discussions and meetings to push their own agendas including
those critical to the United States.
Putin Calls for Halt in Arms Race
Russian President Vladimir Putin today offered to host an international
conference next year on preventing the militarization of space.
Putin, who has frequently spoken against U.S. proposals to develop
new missile systems, told more than 150 leaders gathered at the U.N.
Millennium Summit that proposals to use space for military purposes were
Moscow, he said, would be a natural choice to discuss such issues 40
years after Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space on
April 12, 1961.
We are suggesting the organization on that date under the aegis of
the United Nations of an international conference on the prevention of the
militarization of outer space, Putin said. If you, distinguished
colleagues, agree, then the place for holding that conference could be
President Clinton’s announcement last week that he would leave it to
the next administration to decide whether and when to deploy such a system
will be welcomed by many leaders who have criticized the U.S. plans as a
threat to 30 years of arms control treaties.
President Clinton had a meeting with Putin today where the two
leaders discussed the national nuclear missile defense system. Speaking to
reporters after the meeting, President Clinton said his decision to
postpone the development of the national nuclear defense missile system,
creates an opportunity for the Russians and the next American president
to reach an agreement on the issue.
Chinese President Jiang Zemin is also expected to rally international
support against U.S. national missile defense plans.
But Jiang will have his own controversies to deal with, as members of
the Falun Gong spiritual movement stage continuous demonstrations against
the Chinese leader for Beijing’s crackdown on the sect part of the 91
demonstrations planned this week.
Other protests have been aimed at Iranian President Mohammad Khatami,
including a demonstration Tuesday outside Iran’s U.N. mission by a
coalition of Jewish groups protesting the prison sentences handed down to
10 Iranian Jews convicted of espionage.
There were extraordinary security precautions outside the United
Nations today due to the number of heads of state attending the summit and
increasing worry over terrorism threats. Only high-ranking officials are
allowed to enter the compound within two blocks of the main entrance.
Parks and parking areas were barricaded and the press was detoured
several block away to go through a large tented security area where dozens
of officers checked them with handheld metal detectors.
When the hoopla of the summit ends, Annan wants the United Nations to
monitor how every world leader is implementing the lofty goals in the
The declaration expected to be adopted Friday asks the General
Assembly to review on a regular basis the progress made in implementing
its provisions. And it asks Annan to issue periodic reports for
consideration by the General Assembly.
I am telling the world leaders not only to come here and approve a
plan of action, but that I would expect each and every one of them to go
back home and begin to do something about it, he said.
ABCNEWS' Tamara Lipper, Rebecca Cooper and The Associated Press and
Reuters contributed to this report.