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UN approves compromise plan on reforms and poverty

Pact omits goals sought by Annan

UNITED NATIONS -- The UN General Assembly yesterday adopted a compromise document for world leaders to approve at a UN summit, shedding many of Secretary General Kofi Annan's most ambitious goals after weeks of bitter debate.

The 35-page document is supposed to galvanize global action to combat poverty and launch a major reform of the United Nations itself.

But to reach a consensus, much of the most sweeping language in the text was gutted.

A definition of terrorism and the sought-after details on how to replace the discredited UN Commission on Human Rights will not be included. US-led efforts to overhaul UN management have been diluted. In addition, nuclear nonproliferation probably will not be mentioned at all.

''Obviously we didn't get everything we wanted, and with 191 member states it's not easy to get an agreement," Annan said. ''All of us would have wanted more, but we can work with what we have been given, and I think it is an important step forward."

The document will be put before world leaders at a three-day summit beginning today that will be bring together more than 160 presidents, prime ministers, kings, and their entourages. It will be the largest gathering of world leaders in history.

Even with its shortcomings, diplomats called the document a breakthrough. Several were pleased with the creation of a peace-building panel and a section on development. That section includes a mention of the desire by ''many developed countries" to spend 0.7 percent of their gross national product on development aid.

''Don't expect Rome to be built in a day; it wasn't," Britain's UN Ambassador Emyr Jones-Parry said. ''Against the difficulty of this negotiation, it's complexity, this is a very substantial gain."

Several nations were angry with the way the document was pushed through the General Assembly before it was translated from English into the five other official UN languages, a violation of UN protocol. That gave ambassadors little time to review it.

Annan had gambled that by calling world leaders together for the summit, he could push through a list of UN reforms and refocus attention on the Millennium Development Goals, a set of targets for reducing poverty and disease by 2015.

But longtime national rivalries and tough negotiating tactics slowed the process. The United States weighed in with hundreds of proposed changes a few weeks ago, for which it was strongly criticized. Other nations, including Russia, Pakistan, and China, vehemently opposed some elements.

Annan's spokesman Stephane Dujarric came close to scolding states working on the document when he was asked how worried Annan was about the text.

''You know, the clock continues to tick," Dujarric said in an interview. ''The negotiators, I think, have left things perilously late in light of the date of the summit, which was announced well in advance."

Diplomats insisted the summit will not be an outright disaster. The agreement could provide new impetus for later, more detailed talks on changing procedures within the United Nations, as sought by the United States, they said.

UN officials and diplomats characterized the results as one step, not the definitive blueprint that Annan had sought.

''It would be wrong to claim more than is realistic and accurate about what these reforms are," said US ambassador, John Bolton. ''They represent steps forward, but this is not the alpha and the omega."

Now it looks as if issues that were tacked onto the summit will be featured more prominently.

The UN Security Council is holding a meeting today that will be chaired by its member nations' leaders to consider resolutions on terrorism and conflict and Africa.

The failure of world leaders to adopt a plan for development and reform disappointed some nongovernmental organizations.

They fear that leaving the tough decisions to the 191-member General Assembly, where even seemingly innocuous initiatives can stall for years, is the quickest way to sink Annan's agenda.

''If world leaders do nothing more than adopt a broad, vague text that defers all substantive decisions to the General Assembly, they will have squandered a historic opportunity," said Yvonne Terlingen, Amnesty International's UN representative.

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