Qatar Emir stresses UN role in resolving conflicts


Addressing the UN General Assembly, Qatar’s Emir H H Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani said: “The major conflicts in the world have become too big to be handled by a single power. They should be assigned to the United Nations, being the political embodiment of the principles of the international community, its laws and broad aspirations for establishing peace and progress based on the power of law and the will of those believing in its rulings.




“However, if the role of the United Nations is meant to be more effective, its structure must be reformed to be compatible with the changes that took place in the world since its Charter was adopted in 1945.”



Later US President George W Bush laid down the gauntlet to the global body to do more to help people suffering under oppression and poverty. Bush aslo took aim at repressive regimes and slapped new sanctions on Myanmar.



With the top leaders from Iran, Myanmar and Cuba all watching his address to the UN General Assembly, Bush said: “Every civilised nation also has a responsibility to stand up for the people suffering under dictatorship. The people of Lebanon and Afghanistan and Iraq have asked for our help, and every civilised nation has a responsibility to stand with them.”



Bush challenged the UN to uphold its pledge to fight for freedom in lands of poverty and terror. “The nations in this chamber have our differences, yet there are some areas where we can all agree,” Bush said. “When innocent people are trapped in a life of murder and fear, the declaration is not being upheld. When millions of children starve to death or perish from a mosquito bite, we’re not doing our duty in the world. When whole societies are cut off from the prosperity of the global economy, we’re all worse off.”



“Changing these underlying conditions is what the declaration calls the work of larger freedom and it must be the work of every nation in this assembly,” he said. “This great institution must work for great purposes: to free people from tyranny and violence, hunger and diseases, illiteracy and ignorance and poverty and despair.”



Bush urged the UN to reform its Human Rights Council, created to replace the discredited Human Rights Commission. But Bush criticised the new body for ignoring abuses in places like Iran “while focusing its criticism excessively on Israel.”



But the president’s call for change came with the suggestion of a deal: The United States’ support for the highly contentious issue of expanding the Security Council, the UN’s most powerful body. Bush suggested that Japan is “well-qualified” to be an additional member and said “other nations should be considered as well.”



Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad watched impassively from the audience as Bush named Iran among a list of “brutal regimes,” also including Syria, North Korea and Belarus, that “deny their people … fundamental rights.” French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who received warm applause, told the General Assembly: “Iran has the right to have nuclear energy. But allowing Iran to have nuclear weapons would mean an unacceptable risk for regional and world stability.”



UN chief Ban Ki-moon had opened the UN’s 62nd annual summit with a call to the Myanmar military junta to “exercise restraint, to engage without delay in dialogue with all the relevant parties to the national reconciliation process on the issues of concern to the people of Myanmar.”



And after 100,000 pro-democracy protesters yesterday marched in Yangon for the eighth straight day, Bush unveiled new sanctions in support of the protestors there. “Americans are outraged by the situation in Burma, where a military junta has imposed a 19-year reign of fear,” he said. “The ruling junta remains unyielding, yet the people’s desire for freedom is unmistakable.” The measures against Myanmar’s military rulers included a tightening of existing economic sanctions and expanding a visa ban on the top leadership. The junta slapped dusk-till-dawn curfews on the country’s two largest cities Yangon and Mandalay.



The Myanmar delegation watched stone-faced as Bush announced the new sanctions, but his comments on ailing Cuban leader Fidel Castro caused the Cuban delegation led by Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque to walk-out in protest. Calling on the United Nations to help instigate future free elections in Cuba, Bush said “the long rule of a cruel dictator is nearing its end. The Cuban people are ready for their freedom”.



And he told the global body that it must insist on the freedom of the people of Zimbabwe, who he said were suffering under a “tyrannical regime”.



While the war in Iraq continues, Bush made scant mention of it. After his speech, however, he reassured Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki that US support is not wavering. “We’re with ya, prime minister,” Bush told him. Bush prodded political parties in Iraq to reconcile their differences.



Ahead of the UN session, Bush met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and promised to strive for the creation of a Palestinian state. “The United States of America will work as hard as we possibly can to help you achieve the vision” of a two-state solution to the Palestinians’ historic conflict with Israel, Bush told Abbas.


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