Putin believes U.N. should play key role in fight against terrorism

The United Nations should rather focus on coordinating the world's fight against terrorism than settling disputes between states, Russian President Vladimir Putin told the second day of a U.N. summit Wednesday.

Echoing remarks by Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair and U.S. President George W. Bush the day before, Putin told the U.N. General Assembly that terrorism was the primary threat to human rights and economic development.

"There is a need to adjust this organization to the new historical reality," Putin said. ""Who else will take the role of coordinating and organizing this work but the United Nations?"

The three-day summit was meant to focus on U.N. reform and world poverty 60 years after the founding of the United Nations, but the fight against terrorism has become a central focus.

Putin spoke far more favorably about the world body than some of his predecessors at the rostrum.

"If member countries want the United Nations to be respected and effective, they should begin by making sure it is worthy of respect," Bush told the summit on Wednesday.

In the meantime U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan had set the tone on Wednesday, when he said bitter differences between member states have blocked many crucial United Nations reforms, and nations must act boldly to restore the world body's credibility.

Coming into the summit, diplomats had to dilute a document on goals for tackling rights abuses, terrorism and U.N. reform because they couldn't settle their disputes.

One of the big disappointments was that the document did not include a definition of terrorism as Annan had wanted, though it includes a promise to work on a comprehensive treaty against terrorism in the coming months.

The summit began a week after investigators criticized alleged corruption and U.N. mismanagement of the oil-for-food program in Iraq, and on a day when more than 160 people died in attacks in Baghdad - a harsh reminder of the fight against terrorism that was highlighted in President George W. Bush's speech.

A key goal of the summit is to take action to achieve the U.N. Millennium Development Goals, a set of eight targets meant to reduce global poverty and disease by 2015.

The leader of the Netherlands challenged other rich nations to join the handful of countries that have committed to meeting the millennium goal of setting aside 0.7 percent of their gross national product for overseas development aid. The United States strongly opposes the target.

Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said there is only a slim chance of meeting the millennium goals.

In his speech, Bush broadened the terrorism fight beyond the military arena, saying world leaders have "a solemn obligation" to stop terrorism in its early stages.

Declaring that poverty breeds despair and terrorism, he challenged leaders to abolish all trade tariffs and subsidies to promote prosperity and opportunity in poor nations, a move that would be worth billions of dollars.

"Either hope will spread, or violence will spread, and we must take the side of hope," he said.

This approach - and Bush's support for achieving development goals such as halving extreme poverty by 2015 - was welcomed by many leaders, the AP reports.

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