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President Bush, Kofi Annan Address UN General Assembly  - 2004-09-21


The 59th U.N. General Assembly debate begins today (Tuesday) with speeches by Secretary-General Kofi Annan and President Bush.

Representatives of all 191 U.N. member states and two observer delegations have registered to speak during the annual two-week General Assembly session.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan begins the debate Tuesday with a speech that will focus on the rule of law. Eighteen months after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, a war Mr. Annan recently termed 'illegal', the main thrust of his speech will focus on what a senior U.N. official called, "the rules of conduct that are basic to civilized existence."

The senior official, briefing reporters on the speech, said the Secretary-General is not looking to stir up the controversy over the legality of the Iraq war. But at the same time, the official said, Mr. Annan will emphasize the primacy of international law in resolving conflict.

Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi does not address the assembly until Friday. But he is expected to be in the hall to hear Secretary General Annan and President Bush.

In a U.S. television interview Sunday, Mr. Allawi expressed impatience with the United Nations. He urged the world body to send more people to help on the ground, rather than, as he put it "put obstacles and decide for us."

The United Nations currently has about 35 international staff in Iraq. Secretary-General Annan has said he does not foresee increasing that number substantially, until security conditions improve.

President Bush said in a radio address Saturday that his General Assembly speech would focus on improving health, expanding prosperity and extending freedom.

But many heads of state listening to the address say they are also interested in expanding the size of the Security Council. Top officials from Germany, India, Brazil and Japan will meet on the Assembly sidelines Tuesday to discuss strategy for gaining permanent Council seats.

But General Assembly spokesman Djibril Diallo cautioned reporters not to expect quick action on Security Council reform. He said discussions about U.N. reform are still in an early stage: "While the issue of the Security Council reform has been talked about extensively, one should not forget that differences still exist about the scope, about the nature of these reforms, the number of permanent and non-permanent members in the future council, and the veto power."

Mr. Diallo said 89 heads of state and government have signed up to address the General Assembly during its two-week session. In addition to President Bush and Secretary-General Annan, the first day's speaker list includes the leaders of Brazil, Afghanistan, Japan, Spain and 24 other world leaders.

Police have installed a security cordon several blocks wide around the U.N. headquarters building in New York City during the debate.

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