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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 September 2005, 18:46 GMT 19:46 UK
No single vision for UN's future
By Bridget Kendall
BBC diplomatic correspondent

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva
The Brazilian president thinks poverty should top the priority list
At the UN summit in New York, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani has issued a desperate plea for more international help for his country.

He said insurgents wanted to turn it into a base for international terror.

But speeches from other world leaders have revealed divided opinion on the main challenges facing the world and the future shape of the United Nations.

A clear line of debate has emerged to suggest that this massive international body of 191 nations is far from united.

It is a question of what should be the higher priority - fighting terrorism or combating global poverty, and a question of who really holds the most power.

Leaders from poorer countries and also from Latin America identified narrowing the gap between rich and poor as the world's main challenge.

Brazil's President, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, called it outrageous that agricultural subsidies given to farmers in rich countries came to six times more than the aid money needed to meet the UN's millennium goals to curb hunger.

And the Chilean president, Ricardo Lagos, echoed what seems to be a common frustration here.

There was, he said, much work still to be done to make the still unreformed Security Council fairer.

National interests

Yet a very different view came from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

He was in no doubt that the main threat facing the world was terrorism.

As usual for a Russian president, he strongly supported a central role for the UN, but when it came to reform, his view was it should not go too fast and only with broad agreement.

"Indeed there is a need to adjust this organisation to the new historic realities," Mr Putin said.

"But this process should be constructive.

"It should take into account both the lessons learned and the positive experience gained by the United Nations and this process must unite, not separate."

Radical reform, in other words, was all very well, so long as it did not undermine Russia's Security Council position.

And that of course is the UN's age-old problem.

All countries here are prepared to sign up to fine ideals and talk of reform, but they will only really back it if it is in their narrow national interests.

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