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Press Release
UNITED NATIONS
Department of Public Information · News Coverage Service · New York


Fifty-ninth General Assembly
Plenary
3rd Meeting (AM)
GA/10257
21 September 2004


SECRETARY-GENERAL OPENS ANNUAL GENERAL ASSEMBLY DEBATE URGING
WORLD LEADERS TO RESTORE RESPECT FOR RULE OF LAW
 
US President Says Iraq, Afghanistan ‘On Path to Democracy, Freedom’;
Calls on Member States to Do More to Help Build Secure, Federal, Free Iraq


Background

The General Assembly met this morning to begin its general debate, with statements by its President, the Secretary-General and several heads of State and government.

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Statements

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KOFI ANNAN, Secretary-General of the United Nations, ...

... Turning to the Middle East, he said that civilians, including children, were deliberately targeted by Palestinian suicide bombers, and in Palestine, homes were destroyed, lands were seized and needless civilian casualties had been caused by Israel’s excessive use of force.

“No cause, no grievance, however legitimate in itself, can begin to justify such acts.  They put all of us to shame”, he said.  The prevalence of those acts reflected the international community’s collective failure to uphold the law and to instil respect for it at home.  “We all have a duty to do whatever we can to restore that respect”, he said.

The rule of law began at home, he said, but, in too many places it remained elusive.  The vulnerable lacked effective recourse, while the powerful manipulated laws to retain power and accumulate wealth.  At times, even the necessary fight against terrorism was allowed to encroach unnecessarily on civil liberties.  And, while a framework of fair rules existed, in which States could be confident that others would obey, that framework was riddled with gaps and weaknesses, too often selectively applied and arbitrarily enforced.

In the Security Council, where enforcement capacity did exist, many felt it was not always used fairly or effectively, he said.  Where rule of law was most earnestly invoked, as in the Commission on Human Rights, those invoking it did not always practice what they preached.  “Those who seek to bestow legitimacy must themselves embody it; and those who invoke international law must themselves submit to it”, he said.

Laws must be put into practice, and “permeate the fabric of our lives”.  By strengthening and implementing disarmament treaties, including their verification provisions, “we could best defend against the proliferation, and potential use, of weapons of mass destruction”.  Likewise, by applying the law, financial resources and safe havens to terrorists could be denied.  It was the law, including Security Council resolutions, he said, which offered the best foundation for resolving prolonged conflicts -- in the Middle East, Iraq, and around the world.

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LUIZ INACIO LULA DA SILVA, President of Brazil, ...

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Brazil sought to join other nations in efforts aimed at establishing a world of justice and peace, he said.  Yesterday, 60 leaders gathered to give new impetus to international action against hunger and poverty.  That process would heighten the level of the fight against world poverty.  Turning to the issue of international stability, he said there seemed to be no prospects for improvement in the Middle East.  The Palestinian people were still far from achieving self-determination.  ...

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GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States, said that the American people respected the idealism that had given life to the United Nations.  Now, “we gather at a time of tremendous opportunity” for the United Nations and all peaceful nations.  For decades, the circle of liberty had been expanding throughout the world, bringing unity to Europe, development to Latin America, and new hope to Africa.  It was now ready to expand even further, thus creating a true international peace founded on human freedom.  Stressing that basic human dignity was being dishonoured throughout the world by oppression, corruption, terrorism, bigotry and violence against the innocent, he said that wise governments respected such dignity for practical reasons, knowing that free people embraced progress and life instead of becoming the recruits of murderous ideologies.  Declaring that, in an interconnected world, there was no safety in ignoring the travails of others, he emphasized that the line between right and wrong was the same in every culture, religion and nation.  Expressing sympathy with terror victims in Beslan, Madrid, Jerusalem, Baghdad and Istanbul, who had done nothing to deserve the random murders they had experienced, he stressed that terror networks had to be fought wherever they were.  All civilized countries “are in this struggle together”.

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Extolling the virtues of democracy, he said commitments to democratic reform were essential to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Additionally, Arab States needed to establish normal relations with Israel, which, in turn, had to institute a settlement freeze, dismantle certain outposts and end the humiliation suffered by the Palestinian people.  At the same time, world leaders would do better to withdraw their support from any Palestinian ruler who failed his people and betrayed their cause.  Because democracy was not simply a western value, he proposed the establishment of a “democracy fund” in the United Nations.  Such a fund would help countries lay the foundations for democracy, through such steps as setting up a free judiciary and press, receiving election monitors, and manning voting stations.  The United States would make an initial contribution.  “History will honour the high ideals of the UN”, he said in closing.  “Let history also record that our generation of leaders followed through on these ideals, even in adversity.”

SHEIKH HAMAD BIN KHALIFA AL-THANI, Emir of Qatar, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, ...

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Turning to Palestine, he said the Israeli occupation remained a crushing burden on the Palestinian people’s legitimate dreams of freedom and development.  That issue had been festering on the Assembly’s agenda for more than 50 years, and it was time for the international community to heed the voice of its conscience and compel Israel to implement relevant resolutions.  It was clear that Israel must fulfil its commitments under the Road Map peace plan, as well as halt construction of the separation wall in Gaza and the West Bank, which was severely hampering efforts to find a two-State solution to the problem.  Moreover, the Syrian and Lebanese tracks of the Arab-Israeli conflict, as well as the need to transform the Middle East region into a weapons-free zone needed to be urgently addressed.  ...

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OMAR BONGO ONDIMBA, President of Gabon, ...

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With regard to the Palestinian people and Israel, he said that the restoration of lasting peace was only possible through negotiations and through reactivation of the Road Map.  ...

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JOSEPH DEISS, President of Switzerland, ...

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Insisting that the United Nations and its Member States had to be “unshakeable guarantors” of international law, he highlighted the lack of respect for humanitarian law in the Darfur region of the Sudan, where attacks on civilians needed to be more firmly addressed by the relevant authorities, and in the occupied Palestinian territory, where the separation barrier -- a construction deemed illegal by the International Court of Justice -- was still being built.  Such respect for international law was necessary if the United Nations was to remain credible in its role as a keeper of the peace.

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BENJAMIN MKAPA, President of the United Republic of Tanzania, ...

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He regretted that the Middle East Road Map had been “put aside”, even though it remained the most reasonable, viable and sustainable way of resolving that long-standing conflict.  ...

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