Leaders Urge Bigger U.N. Role

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of Israel addresses the United Nations General Assembly, at U.N. headquarters in New York Thursday Sept. 15, 2005.
World leaders nearing the end of a three-day summit urged the United Nations to play a bigger role on the world stage — in everything from the fight against terrorism to protecting immigrant rights to easing the crunch caused by high oil prices.

After the last speeches on Friday, the 191 U.N. member states will adopt a document that takes a step toward revamping the United Nations to meet the challenges of the 21st century and adds new impetus to the fight against poverty. But bitter disagreements meant most substantive measures had to be left out.

While those disagreements were playing out in the General Assembly chamber, attention was largely focused elsewhere: Iran's president said his country was willing to provide nuclear technology to other Muslim states. Arab-Israeli relations took another positive step. And a U.N. treaty to fight global corruption got its 30th ratification, triggering its entry into force in 90 days.

"This dream has become a reality," said Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of the U.N. Office of Drugs and Crime.

Between news conferences by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin and various nongovernmental organizations, Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez scolded evangelist Pat Robertson for calling for his assassination and criticized the U.S. government for the Iraq war, which he called illegal.

Chavez suggested moving the United Nations headquarters to Jerusalem because President Bush attacked Saddam Hussein's government without U.N. authorization.

"The proposal has the merit of providing a response to the conflict experienced by Palestine, but it may be difficult to bring about," Chavez said in a speech that earned him the heartiest applause of the 80 leaders to speak so far.

If Chavez' fiery speech showed a disdain for the United States, it also showed his fondness for the United Nations, something many other leaders readily shared.

The president of the Philippines, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, went further than most when she suggested the United Nations take the lead in easing the effects of high oil prices. She said it should study oil rationing and conservation, as well as consider initiatives to fuel engines with coconut oil and convert cane sugar to ethanol.