UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan challenged President Bush's policies on Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in his opening address to the UN General Assembly on Thursday.
Annan stressed that while any country had the right to fight back when attacked, only the United Nations could authorize the use of force in cases that go beyond straight forward self-defense, according to his prepared text.
His office took the unusual step of releasing his speech late on Wednesday. He addresses the 190-member assembly minutes before Bush speaks on Thursday morning. Aids said he gave US officials a copy in advance.
The United States responded to last year's Sept. 11 attacks with a war to oust Afghanistan 's Taliban rulers who had sheltered Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network, thought to be behind the suicide-hijacks that killed over 3,000 people.
Bush and his top aides have since spoken of extending their "war on terror" to Iraq, accusing it of seeking weapons of mass destruction for possible use against the US or its allies.
Iraq denies the charges and no evidence has emerged linking Baghdad to the attacks on New York and Washington.
Without referring directly to US talk of a pre-emptive strike on Iraq, Annan said: "When states decide to use force to deal with broader threats to international peace and security, there is no substitute for the unique legitimacy provided by the United Nations.
"I stand before you today as a multilateralist by precedent, by principle, by charter and by duty," he said.
Taking another stance at odds with US priorities, Annan renewed a call for an early international peace conference on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict -- an idea which Washington itself proposed in May, but has since dropped.
Bush will explain why he thinks Iraq threatens the world and challenge the United Nations to respond. He is to say Washington would act if the world body failed to do so.
Bush will face an audience of world leaders who have opposed any war on Iraq, or at least voiced misgivings.
Annan, in his address, said: "The more a country makes use of multilateral institutions -- thereby respecting shared values, and accepting the obligations and restraints inherent in those values -- the more others will trust and respect it, and the stronger its chance to exercise true leadership."
He said UN member states were more willing to act with authorization from the 15-member UN Security Council than without it.
"Even the most powerful countries know that they need to work with others, in multilateral institutions, to achieve their aims," Annan said in a swipe at a US administration that has often seemed impatient with a multilateral approach.
Many European, Arab and other nations have voiced dismay at a US drive to topple Iraqi President Saddam Hussein -- with or without fresh Security Council approval -- in a bid to halt his alleged attempts to acquire weapons of mass destruction.
Annan, who said this month it would be "unwise to attack Iraq," also told the General Assembly Iraq was defying Security Council resolutions and should readmit UN weapons inspectors. Accounting for Iraq's nuclear, chemical, biological and ballistic missile programs is key to suspending UN sanctions, imposed 12 years ago when Baghdad invaded Kuwait.
"If Iraq's defiance continues, the Security Council must face its responsibilities," Annan declared, in a formula that clearly does not rule out UN-authorized military action.
The Bush administration won unstinting UN support for a struggle against terrorism after the Sept. 11 attacks.
But it has annoyed many countries by spurning global initiatives such as the Kyoto protocol on greenhouse gases and treaties against biological weapons, nuclear testing and land mines, by opposing the new International Criminal Court and by failing to pay $1.2 billion it owes to the United Nations.
The United States has also come under fire from many of its European and Arab allies for echoing Israel's insistence that the Palestinians must change their leaders and stop all violence before progress can be made on the political front.
Annan, however, said a widely accepted vision of a two-state solution to the conflict, could be reached "only if we move rapidly and in parallel on all fronts."
On Afghanistan, Annan said President Hamid Karzai's government needs help to extend its authority throughout the country. "Without this, all else may fail," he said.
He urged donors to keep their pledges to help rebuild the war-shattered nation. "Otherwise the Afghan people will lose hope -- and desperation, we know, breeds violence," he said.
(China Daily September 12, 2002)