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UN Reforms Critical to World Safety: Annan

The coming year is critical for the United Nations to make the necessary reforms to deal effectively with global threats, from HIV/AIDS, nuclear proliferation and genocide to terrorism capable of killing hundreds of thousands of people, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said on Wednesday.


"No country can afford to deal with today's threats alone, and no threat can be dealt with effectively unless other threats are addressed at the same time," said Annan, while introducing last week's report of a panel on global threats and UN reforms.

"The United Nations has done a good job in many instances, and is often undervalued. But it needs change -- perhaps radical change -- if it is to meet the challenges to come," he added.

Annan appointed a 16-member panel of prominent politicians, diplomats and development experts a year ago to assess the current threats facing the world and recommend policy and institutional changes to deal with them.

They came out with 101 proposals for dealing with the six areas identified as being the greatest threats to worldwide security in the 21st century: continued poverty and environmental degradation, terrorism, civil war, conflict between states, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and organized crime.

"They have risen to the challenge -- and now the burden falls on you," Annan said. "It is up to you, the member states, to act on their recommendations and to make 2005 the year of change at the United Nations."

He said some of the proposals were in his purview and he intended to take the lead in promoting "a new comprehensive, principled strategy" against terrorism.

In March, Annan is due to submit to the assembly his review on the implementation of the Millennium Declaration, a pledge world leaders made in 2000 to significantly reduce the world's ills. He said he would draw heavily not only on the panel's report but also on members' discussions of it in the coming months.

"I said that 2005 is important," he concluded. "It is, indeed, critical. We must make progress, and come to agreement on the changes we need to in this organization."

"It is not simply a matter of make the Organization better. It is a matter of confronting, in the only way possible, the real and present dangers that lie in wait for us."

At the end of his speech, Annan received a standing ovation from diplomats attending the session. "You have just received a rare and exceptionally warm tribute by the General Assembly," assembly president Jean Ping of Gabon told the gathering.

"This long standing ovation is an expression of the support of member states to your action, and the trust member states have in you as a person for the work that you continue to undertake at the helm of the United Nations," he said.

Annan has been beset by allegations of corruption and fraud in the UN-supervised Iraqi oil-for-food program. A few US congressmen have recently called for Annan's resignation.

(Xinhua News Agency December 9, 2004)

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