By Walter Wisniewski, VOA, New York|
A new session of the United Nations General Assembly has opened in New York,
with a sharp attack on the United States by the assembly's president, former
Nicaraguan foreign minister Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann. VOA's Walter Wisniewski
reports from our New York newscenter.
The past year's General Assembly of the United Nations has come to a close, and
the new, 63rd session of the General Assembly is now formally open. World
leaders will address the annual U.N. meeting next week, but the Assembly's
incoming president caught diplomats' attention Tuesday with his opening remarks,
a scathing attack on U.S. policies.
The General Assembly president, former Nicaraguan Foreign Minister Miguel
d'Escoto Brockmann, mentioned the United States by name only a few times, but
made it clear who his target was.
D'Escoto says it is "undeniable" that some members of the Security Council have
"an addiction to war," and he says they are threatening international peace and
security. In a scarcely veiled reference to President George W. Bush's
administration, d'Escoto also said no nation has the right "to decide on its own
which states are sponsors of terrorism, and which are not."
"By now, over 1.2 million people have died as a direct consequence of that
aggression and occupation," d'Escoto said about the U.S.-led war in Iraq.
The 75-year-old diplomat, who is a Roman Catholic priest, told reporters later
he intends to try to reform the U.N. to give the 192-member General Assembly a
stronger role, compared to the Security Council, whose permanent members - the
United States, Russia, China, France and Britain - have veto power over U.N.
D'Escoto says the world has changed since 1945, when the United Nations was
founded, but the U.N. has not kept pace. He predicts "soul-searching" and frank
debate at the General Assembly in the weeks and months to come.
"This will be an interesting year, and I will be making an appeal from the very
depth of my heart and my experience," he said.
D'Escoto used spiritual terms in his opening speech, which he addressed to "my
dear brothers and sisters" from all over the world. Asked about the significance
of his dual role as General Assembly president and also a priest, he tried to
deflect the comment with a joke.
"I'm also the oldest and the most decrepit [laughter], healthwise, and I know
that. But will I, therefore, because I am a priest, pay particular attention to
interfaith dialogue?" he asked. "That's already on the agenda. This is something
that I have spoken about quite a bit with the secretary-general, and he is
asking me to join him in this effort."
He was asked about his scheduled appearance at a forum next week together with
Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has called for Israel's destruction
several times. D'Escoto says he does not feel it is inappropriate for him to
"Obviously, if I am here talking about brotherhood and sisterhood, I don't want
anyone to be wiped off the map - not even any individual, much less a state," he
He also pretended not to hear when another reporter asked whether he would
condemn Russia's military action against Georgia last month constituted an act
of aggression. D'Escoto, who has embraced leftist policies for decades, said he
did feel that any act of aggression in the Caucasus region was committed by
Georgia, against South Ossetia.
Heads of state and government will be streaming into New York over the next few
days, before the General Assembly's traditional round of speeches by each leader
begins next Tuesday.
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