SCOTT SIMON, host:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.
Coming up, our London cabbie pulls over to tell us what he's been reading this summer.
But first, representatives of about 30 nations, including the United States, met yesterday at the United Nations to talk about a long list of declarations their leaders could approve at next month's world summit in New York City. Earlier in the week, US Ambassador John Bolton caused a bit of a stir by proposing hundreds of wide-ranging changes to the document just weeks before the summit. NPR's Corey Flintoff reports.
COREY FLINTOFF reporting:
The summit is being billed as the largest gathering of world leaders ever, brought together by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to discuss--well, that's the question. As it stands right now, the so-called outcome document that describes the purpose of the summit runs to 39 pages of small print. It was put together by General Assembly President Jean Ping as a follow-up to previous UN declarations on development, peace and security, human rights and reform of the UN's own management. And the changes proposed by the US would cut the document considerably and put the focus on UN reform.
Mr. RICHARD GRENELL (Spokesman, UN Mission to the United Nations): Are there a lot of suggestions to this draft document from the US? Absolutely.
FLINTOFF: Richard Grenell is the spokesman for the UN Mission to the United Nations.
Mr. GRENELL: The United States is the number one contributor at the United Nations. We have to take reforming the UN very seriously, and we've done that.
FLINTOFF: Secretary-General Kofi Annan originally called the summit as a follow-up to the development-oriented millennium summit five years ago, but Grenell says there was little interest among world leaders until the focus shifted to UN reform. That interest has grown as UN officials came under investigation for corruption in the Iraq oil-for-food program and as revelations came to light about sexual misconduct by UN peacekeepers. Donald McHenry was US ambassador to the UN in the Carter administration and he served on the Gingrich-Mitchell Task Force on UN Reform.
Mr. DONALD McHENRY (Former US Ambassador to the UN): One might question whether the United States comes over as throwing a monkey wrench into the machinery, particularly given the fact that it's participated in this process all along.
FLINTOFF: McHenry says the current document contains many ideas that the Bush administration supports, including UN management reform, the creation of a new body to deal with human rights and a stricter definition of terrorism.
Mr. McHENRY: Where there is a disagreement is where this document includes a lot of things which this administration, in its unilateralism, has opposed all along.
FLINTOFF: Those would include the Kyoto agreement on global climate change, the International Criminal Court and the obligation for nuclear nations to reduce their arsenals of atomic weapons. UN mission spokesman Rick Grenell says there will be other times to discuss all such issues.
Mr. GRENELL: Now is not the time to load up this document and talk about a bunch of other subjects because, frankly, by doing that you take the focus off UN reform. And there are those who love the status quo who are trying to make sure that reform in the UN is the last thing that we do.
FLINTOFF: Diplomats from two major European nations who requested anonymity during the ongoing negotiations say their countries agree with the US that the proposed declaration could be more concise and more action-oriented but that they can live with the current wording. One diplomat said the US proposals come at a bad time for the process and that the summit could well end up with no agreement at all. John Bolton did offer an alternative to his fellow UN ambassadors and to the UN bureaucracy: a much shorter statement of principles, to be followed by a discussion on specific issues at another time. Former Ambassador McHenry says a shorter document would definitely be more attractive to world leaders, but he notes that the current statement has been in the works for years.
Mr. McHENRY: It is a political organization. It's a political document. There will always be things that one will have to compromise on.
FLINTOFF: Yesterday's meeting at the United Nations was inconclusive about which direction the US and the other delegates want to take, but with less than three weeks to go, they'll have to decide soon.
Corey Flintoff, NPR News, Washington.
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