Annan calls world leaders to restore UN's credibility

After a year of criticism, Secretary-General Kofi Annan defended the United Nations on Wednesday and urged global leaders to restore the organisation's credibility by adopting broad reforms needed for the world to act together to tackle poverty, terrorism and conflict.

Addressing a summit that he called a year ago in hopes of winning approval for an ambitious blueprint to modernise the United Nations on its 60th anniversary, Annan told more than 150 presidents, prime ministers and kings that "a good start" had been made.

But he said sharp differences had blocked "the sweeping and fundamental reform that I and many others believe is required."

Instead of a celebration of UN achievements since its founding in the ashes of Second World War, the summit was much more a sombre reappraisal of its shortcomings and a debate about how to meet the daunting challenges of a world becoming increasingly interlinked.

It began a week after investigators sharply criticised alleged corruption and UN mismanagement of the oil-for-food programme 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 a highlight of US President George Bush's speech, reports Scotsman.

According to Reuters, in a paper in March entitled "In Larger Freedom", Annan set out challenges for the 21st century that required collective action: alleviating extreme poverty, reversing the AIDS pandemic, global security, terrorism and human rights.

But after protracted negotiations over the last few weeks, nearly every bold initiative suffered cutbacks in the final 38-page document approved by the General Assembly on Tuesday for endorsement at the summit.

Still, the somewhat weakened document saved the summit from failure. U.N. officials highlighted initiatives, including the establishment of a new human rights body, a peacebuilding commission to help nations emerging from war and perhaps most significantly, an obligation to intervene when civilians face genocide and war crimes.

Human rights, anti-poverty and other advocacy groups expressed disappointment at the outcome.

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