Accessibility links

Vast Agenda Greets World Leaders At 64th UN General Assembly

More than 120 heads of state and govenrment will convene in the General Assembly hall at UN headquarters in New York over the next seven days.

More than 120 heads of state and govenrment will convene in the General Assembly hall at UN headquarters in New York over the next seven days.

(RFE/RL) -- The United Nations' General Assembly is set to begin its 64th session with seven days of general debate. The new session brings together more than 120 heads of state and government, among them many faces new to the UN, including U.S. President Barack Obama.

Afghanistan, the Arab-Israeli conflict, and the future of Azerbaijan's Nagorno-Karabakh enclave are items on the session's vast agenda.

Obama's inaugural speech to the General Assembly is expected to emphasize that leadership and cooperation from a wide range of countries -- not unilateralism -- are necessary to confront the grave challenges facing the world today.

Foreshadowing Obama's speech, Washington's UN Ambassador Susan Rice says these challenges include terrorism, genocide, mass atrocities, and cyberattacks, the nuclear activities in Iran and North Korea, pandemic diseases, and international criminal networks.

Rice says the United States recognizes that its security is inextricably linked to the well-being of people elsewhere.

Warm Welcome

Observers say Obama's speech will likely receive a warm welcome due to this shift in tone on global engagement, and because of his outreach to the Muslim world.

Among others attending the session are Japan's new Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, who is calling for the creation of a new Asian regional grouping like the European Union, possibly with a single currency.

Hatoyama has met China's President Hu Jintao on the margins of the UN, and according to Japanese officials both leaders expressed a wish for better relations. Prospects for this are improved by the fact that Hatoyama's Democratic Party is likely to bring a fresh perspective to the issue, after ousting the Liberal Democrats from almost a half-century in office.

Obama has scheduled a meeting with Hatoyama and is also likely to see -- informally -- Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, who is at the UN assembly for the first time in his 40 years in power. Qaddafi follows Obama at the General Assembly podium. Libya's Ali Abdussalam Treki is serving as General Assembly president for this session.

Obama will also speak with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, and China's Hu Jintao.

One leader with whom Obama is not expected to meet is Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, even though the two men will be attending a lunch hosted by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Two human rights groups are pressing for the General Assembly to appoint a special investigator to examine rights abuses in Iran that followed the country's disputed June 12 presidential election.

Human Rights Watch and the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran say the UN members should use Ahmadinejad's presence to demand accountability for the wave of violence in Iran.

Prospects For Iran Talks

As to the thorny issue of Iran's nuclear program, foreign ministers from the five permanent Security Council members -- Russia, China, France, Britain, and the United States, plus Germany, who have been trying to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions -- will meet European Union officials to discuss prospects for the talks with Iran set for October 1.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki says Tehran hopes that the October meeting will lay the groundwork for resolving the nuclear issue.

A series of international summits and meetings is interwoven with the General Assembly session. Obama met on September 22 with Israeli and Palestinian leaders in a bid to restart stalled peace negotiations.

Also on September 22, world leaders met at the UN for a special summit aimed at moving closer toward a deal for a new global pact on combating climate change.

On September 24, Obama is to chair a meeting of the Security Council that will focus on nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament.

Also this week, the G-20 group of nations hold their economic summit in Pittsburgh.