United Nations, 22 September 1999 (RFE/RL) -- The United States and Russia outlined major objectives for the next century at the 54th annual UN General Assembly in New York.
U.S. President Bill Clinton told the gathering on Tuesday that American goals include helping the world's poor and sick, promoting global economic growth, safeguarding human rights, and fighting terrorism.
Clinton also endorsed UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's warning on Monday that countries cannot assume their national sovereignty will protect them from international intervention to stop flagrant human rights abuses. But Clinton differed from Annan's aim that such interventions be conducted under UN auspices.
Clinton said the way in which the international community responds will depend on the capacity of countries to act, and on their perception of their national interests. Clinton cited the Australian-led UN peackeeping force for East Timor as a good example. He also had words of praise for NATO'S intervention in Kosovo.
Clinton said: "By acting as we did, we helped to vindicate the principles and purposes of the UN Charter, to give the UN the opportunity it now has to play the central role in shaping Kosovo's future. In the real world, principles often collide and tough choices must be made. The outcome in Kosovo is hopeful."
Clinton also said the world has made more progress than perhaps some realize on containing future threats from weapons of mass destruction. He singled out Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine for voluntarily giving up their nuclear weapons, which they inherited from the Soviet Union.
In his speech, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov urged the international community to undertake concrete steps aimed at fighting global terrorism and to do so immediately.
Ivanov also called on nations to clamp down on any manifestations of separatism and to defend the principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity, and inviolability of national borders. Ivanov said: "Recently, separatism has been increasingly merging with the monster of terrorism. Even during this session we could undertake several concrete steps aimed at a more active, practical international cooperation in combating terrorism. It is necessary to finalize the draft convention on fighting acts of nuclear terrorism. We also propose to develop and adopt a declaration of principles of interaction between states, with the view to stepping up the fight against terrorism."
Ivanov further added that Russia supports the initiative of holding an anti-terrorist conference under the auspices of the UN, or a special session of the UN General Assembly next year. He said such an event would give a powerful political impetus to the struggle against terrorism world-wide.
While Ivanov and Clinton agree on the need to stop terror in its tracks, they hold widely differing views on the issue of sanctions regimes -- another topic featuring high on the UN agenda.
Senior officials of the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France met again this week to try to narrow differences over the extent of sanctions relief and, above all, the trigger for suspending sanctions. Washington insists UN arms inspectors verify compliance with key disarmament requirements, before permitting any "adjustments" in sanctions. Clinton reiterated that view before the UNGA.
Clinton said: "For almost a decade, nations have stood together to keep the Iraqi regime from threatening its people and the world with such weapons. Despite all the obstacles Saddam Hussein has placed in our path, we must continue to ease the suffering of the people of Iraq. At the same time, we cannot allow the government of Iraq to flout 40 -- and I say 40 -- successive UN Security Council resolutions and to rebuild his arsenal."
Russia, as Ivanov's remarks through a translator indicate, holds a different view:
Ivanov said: "Sanctions are an extreme measure. They can be applied only when other means of political influence have been exhausted and the Security Council has established the existence of a threat to peace. The Council, for its part, should be guided by clear criteria for imposition and lifting of sanctions and should not allow any free interpretation of adopted decisions, much less to allow their use by anyone for selfish political or economic ends."
Ivanov's remarks also indicated an opposing view on the need for revisions to the anti-ballistic missile (ABM) treaty, as called for by the United States. Washington maintains that dangers posed by rogue states like North Korea, Iran and Iraq, make changes in the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty imperative.
Ivanov, for his part, said Moscow would like to see the General Assembly come out clearly in support of preserving and observing the existing ABM treaty, which he called "a cornerstone of strategic stability." The Russian foreign minister added that any unilateral actions to change the treaty would be, in his words, "fraught with extremely dangerous consequences."
Despite the obvious differences and points of contention, both leaders ended their remarks on a hopeful note, pledging their support for a new order within the UN, as well as throughout the world.