Disparate views on capitalism aired at UN

Iranian calls for new order

By Edith M. Lederer
Associated Press / September 22, 2010

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UNITED NATIONS — Iran’s president yesterday predicted the defeat of capitalism and blamed global big business for the suffering of millions, but Germany’s chancellor said market economies were key to lifting the world’s least developed countries out of poverty.

The clash of visions at the UN antipoverty summit drew a line under stark differences on how to help 1 billion people living on $1.25 or less a day.

More than 140 presidents, prime ministers, and kings are attending the three-day summit that started Monday to assess and spur on achievement of UN targets set by world leaders in 2000. The plan called for an intensive global campaign to ease poverty, disease, and inequalities between rich and poor by 2015.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, however, never mentioned the Millennium Development Goals in his speech to the General Assembly.

Instead, he took aim at capitalism and called for the overhaul of “undemocratic and unjust’’ global decision-making bodies dominated by the United States and other Western powers. While Ahmadinejad didn’t single out any country, he said world leaders, thinkers, and global reformers should spare no effort to make practical plans for a new world order — reform of international economic and political institutions.

“It is my firm belief that in the new millennium, we need to revert to the divine mind-set . . . based on the justice-seeking nature of mankind, and on the monotheistic world view,’’ the Iranian leader said in a brief speech.

Soon afterward, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, the world’s fourth-largest economic power, took an opposite tack.

Stressing that “the primary responsibility for development lies with the governments of the developing countries,’’ she said the key to economic prosperity is a flourishing capitalist economy.

“The countries themselves must promote the development of a market economy . . . for without self-sustaining economic growth, developing countries will find the road out of poverty and hunger too steep to travel,’’ Merkel said.

Oxfam, the aid organization, slammed Merkel’s address. Spokeswoman Emma Seery said the Germans had “failed to explain how they will meet their promises of aid to poor countries.’’

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon says the world is “on track’’ to cut extreme poverty by half.