U.N. Summit Burdened by Disagreements

The outcome of this week's U.N. summit to tackle poverty and overhaul the United Nations administration was thrown into question Monday because of serious disagreements over the document that world leaders are supposed to adopt.

With some leaders already in New York for Wednesday's opening of the three-day summit, ambassadors were still wrestling with the text of the latest 39-page document on revamping the United Nations to meet the challenges of the 21st century. After a weekend of lengthy talks by a negotiating group of about 15 countries, several ambassadors said there definitely would be a document _ but it would be far less sweeping and ambitious than the blueprint called for by Secretary-General Kofi Annan last March.

Mark Malloch Brown, the secretary-general's chief of staff, sought to put an optimistic cast on the situation, saying negotiations seemed more favorable than a few days ago because "deadlines are starting to loosen minds and positions."

"There's a threshold where we always knew we wouldn't get the full loaf," he added. "We've got to start counting slices. Half or more will do at this stage."

The seven issues facing negotiators were terrorism; a stronger Human Rights Council to replace the discredited Human Rights Commission; a new Peacebuilding Commission to help nations emerging from conflict; new responsibility for governments to protect civilians from genocide and war crimes; disarmament and nuclear weapons proliferation; overhauling U.N. management; and the promotion of economic development.

Annan also had urged the 191 U.N. member states to agree on a plan to expand the powerful U.N. Security Council, but the negotiations became so contentious the idea was shelved last month.

In the latest talks, a 32-nation "core" group broke into even smaller groups to try to come up with language that all member states could agree on. A new text was being compiled for a final round of bargaining, which some ambassadors said was likely to last until the summit opened.

The United States and some members of the Nonaligned Movement, representing 116 mainly developing countries, traded accusations about who was being inflexible.

Richard Grenell, spokesman for the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, said after an early morning session Monday that negotiations on the Human Rights Council and U.N. management had "both fallen apart" _ an assertion disputed by the ambassadors for India and Egypt, which are prominent voices in the developing world.

The United States and many European countries want the Human Rights Council to become a permanent body, with a country's membership requiring approval by two-thirds of U.N. nations. Grenell said Egypt and China opposed that Monday, and other diplomats said Russia did as well, Washington Post reported.

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