by William M. Reilly
UNITED NATIONS, Sept. 21 (Xinhua) -- A score and more of world leaders took to the podium of the UN General Assembly on Wednesday for the opening of the 66th annual general debate, but with a different voice.
"For the first time in history, a female voice opens the general debate," said Dilma Rousseff, president of Brazil, the opening speaker. She said it was the voice of democracy and equality reverberating from the most representative podium in the world.
"It is with personal humility, but with my justified pride as a woman, that I meet this historic moment," she said.
Sharing this feeling with over half of the world's population women, who "with tenacity are occupying the place they deserve in the world," Rousseff said. "I am certain that this will be the century of women."
Turning to the world's crises, Rousseff said, "We face an economic crisis that, unless it is overcome, could become a grave political and social rift."
The ability to reinforce regulation of the financial system and to control the source of instability is critical the president said.
Her position as the first speaker came about because she represented Brazil, which for decades has been the leadoff speaker at the annual conclave because a Brazilian foreign minister stepped in at the last moment to cover for an absent scheduled speaker.
U.S. President Barack Obama followed, in a premium position on the speakers list as leader of the host country to the United Nations.
He said that the pursuit of peace in an imperfect world was at the heart of the work of the United Nations and member states must do their part to support the basic aspirations of freedom, dignity and peace.
"Each nation must chart its own course to fulfill the aspirations of its people, and America does not expect to agree with every party or person who expresses themselves politically," he continued. "But we will always stand up for the universal rights that were embraced by this assembly."
"One issue stands as a test for these principles -- and for American foreign policy: the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians," he said, expressing frustration.
"But, the question isn't the goal we seek -- the question is how to reach it and I am convinced that there is no short cut to the end of a conflict that has endured for decades," he said. " Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the UN -- if it were that easy, it would have been accomplished by now. Ultimately, it is Israelis and Palestinians who must live side by side. Ultimately, it is Israelis and Palestinians -- not us, who must reach agreement on the issues that divide them."
The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, said that he came from a region calling for reform.
"They hoped to achieve their goals, assume their responsibilities and take their place in the partnership of the future of mankind," he said. Qatar supported the promotion of dialogue among cultures and civilizations, the strengthening and consolidation of relations among peoples and the consolidation of "rapprochement among powers," on the basis of international charters and covenants.
He said that the "blossoming of the Arab Spring" presented all member states with heavy responsibilities to assume and positions they must take.
The emir said that the unrest needed to be settled on the basis of the rules and charters that governed modern international relations.
President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan said that his country seeks global nuclear safety and security and wants nations to begin drafting a universal declaration on a "nuclear-weapon- free world."
Kazakhstan considered that all states belonging to the "nuclear club" should join the process of reducing their arsenals, in light of the agreement between the United States and Russia. He added it was essential because today such weapons were not a deterrent, but catalysts for an arms race.
President Nicolas Sarkozy of France said that the "Arab Spring" had given rise to extraordinary hope. For too long, the Arab peoples were oppressed.
"We do not have the right to disappoint their hopes," he said, adding that breaking those dreams would "vindicate the fanatics."
The international community could not respond to the aspiration for democracy by perpetuating the tragedy of the Israel-Palestine conflict, he said. New methods should be adopted where others had failed.
"We should not look for a perfect solution, because there are no perfect solutions," he said.
UN member states today faced a choice, the president said. Everyone knew that Palestine could not immediately obtain full and complete recognition as a member of the United Nations, He said a veto in the Security Council to the Palestinian bid for statehood, as vowed by the United States, risked engendering a cycle of violence in the Middle East.
"Let us not be diplomats for a day," he told UN delegates, urging them not to exclude an intermediate stage in the conflict's resolution, which would offer Palestine the status of a UN observer state. The ultimate goal must be the mutual recognition of two nation states for two peoples.
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