U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan will tell the 191-member U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday that the rule of law in the post-Sept. 11 world has been eroded both by the United States and by other nations as they battle terrorism, and by Islamic extremists and their horrific acts of violence, according to senior U.N. officials.
The U.N. chief's remarks will be delivered less than an hour before President Bush addresses the international body, and will come just days after Annan said publicly he considers the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq illegal. But Annan's top aides insisted that he is not seeking to rehash the dispute over the war's legitimacy. "Stirring things up is not his stock in trade," said a senior U.N. official who briefed reporters on Annan's speech. "He is much more concerned about the future of Iraq."
Annan's speech will set a somber tone for the United Nations' 59th General Assembly, which will draw 64 presidents, 25 prime ministers, 86 foreign ministers and scores of ambassadors, to U.N. headquarters for two weeks of public speeches and private diplomacy.
The overarching theme of Annan's address is that the "basic rules of human conduct" are at risk -- as evidenced in Beslan, Russia, where Chechen militants appear to have slaughtered hundreds of children, the U.N. official said.
Annan will also issue veiled criticism of the Bush administration by citing the abuse of prisoners of war in Iraq by U.S. troops, according to the U.N. official. He will also say that, at times, the vital struggle against terrorism has interfered with civil liberties and human rights, the official said.
Annan is also expected to urge the United States and other U.N. members to embrace a raft of international treaties designed to enforce fair-trade rules, fight terrorism, and combat the spread of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. The Bush administration has come under intense criticism at the United Nations for opposing popular international treaties, including a global ban on nuclear tests and an accord to slow the production of emissions that fuel global warming.
Annan will also take issue with Iraqi extremists, Palestinian suicide bombers, Israeli forces and Sudanese militias that stand accused by the United States of committing genocide in Darfur. "This is a rather lawless world that we're living in," the official said. "And we all have to ask ourselves why is it that people don't respect the rules."
The U.N. chief's assessment will reflect a concern at the United Nations that the organization has devoted too little attention to issues that affect the poor, according to senior officials, while focusing on security issues that are important to the United States.
In an effort to shift the debate on U.N. priorities, leaders from more than 50 governments attended two U.N. conferences here Monday on hunger and the side effects of globalization for the world's poor. "The most destructive weapon of mass destruction in the world today is poverty," said Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who hosted the World Leaders Summit on Hunger at U.N. headquarters. Participants in the event adopted a declaration vowing "to act against hunger and poverty."
The declaration, signed by more than 100 countries, endorsed Brazil's call for a tax on international financial transactions and on heavy weapons sales, to raise billions of dollars for the poor. It also endorsed a British proposal to borrow money from international markets to increase international funding for the developing world.
Bush, who opposed the call for international taxation, declined to attend the meeting.