MICHELE NORRIS, Host:
From NPR News, this is All Things Considered. I'm Michele Norris.
MELISSA BLOCK, Host:
And I'm Melissa Block. George W. Bush gave his final speech as president to the United Nations today. He's had a tumultuous relationship with the U.N., complicated by the war in Iraq. Today, President Bush urged member states to work together to fight violent extremism and get back to the U.N.'s core value of supporting human rights. But as NPR's Michele Kelemen reports, it was a message that fell flat in a moment of global financial worries.
MICHELE KELEMEN: President Bush spent much of his speech talking about ways he thinks the world body can be more effective in fighting violent extremism around the globe. He said the U.N. is needed now more than ever.
P: Instead of only passing resolutions decrying terrorist attacks after they occur, we must cooperate more closely to keep terrorist attacks from happening in the first place. Instead of treating all forms of government as equally tolerable, we must actively challenge the conditions of tyranny and despair that allow terror and extremists to thrive.
KELEMEN: President Bush accused Syria and Iran of continuing to sponsor terrorism, but said they're growing more isolated. Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was in the room listening and smiling at times. At one point, he turned to his neighbor to give a thumbs down. Later, in his address, Ahmadinejad complained about U.N. Security Council sanctions against his country. He spoke through an interpreter.
P: (Through Translator) A few bullying powers have sought to put hurdles in the way of the peaceful nuclear activities of the Iranian nation by exerting political and economic pressures against Iran.
KELEMEN: While terrorism and nonproliferation are high on the Bush administration's agenda, it's the economy that's drawing more concern among other member states and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who's already worried about high energy and food prices driving more people into poverty.
NORRIS: The global financial crisis endangers all our work, financing for development, social spending in rich nations and poor. If ever there were a call to collective action, a call for global leadership, it is now.
KELEMEN: The secretary-general called for a new approach with, as he put it, less uncritical faith in the magic of markets. Leaders from the developing world lined up with him. Brazil's leftist president, Luiz Inacio Lula de Silva, said through an interpreter, the boundless greed of a few should not be shouldered by all.
P: (Though Translator) Only decisive action by governments, especially in countries where the crisis is focused, will be able to control the disorder that has spread through the world's financial sector with perverse impacts on the daily lives of millions of people.
KELEMEN: And French President Nicolas Sarkozy suggested that wealthy nations get together quickly to find ways to respond collectively. Speaking through an interpreter, he called this the most serious financial crisis the world has experienced since the 1930s.
P: (Through Translator) Let us rebuild together a regulated capitalism in which whole swathes of financial activity are not left to the sole judgment of the market operators.
KELEMEN: President Bush tried to reassure world leaders that he has taken bold steps to restore stability and prevent the disorderly failure of major U.S. companies. He said he and Congress will work, as he put it, in the urgent time-frame required. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, the United Nations.