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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 January, 2004, 15:19 GMT
World leaders take stock in 2004
Chinese President Hu Jintao
Taiwan on his mind

World leaders have spoken of their nations' ups and downs in 2003 and their hopes for the coming year, in New Year messages to their peoples.

The following are highlights from some of their speeches.

Chinese President Hu Jintao

The year 2003 was of unusual significance for the Chinese people. Chinese people of all ethnic groups, united as one, conquered the difficulties and challenges brought about by the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) epidemic and natural disasters including earthquakes, floods and droughts. It was also a year in which China pressed ahead with its reforms and opening-up. China will maintain all-round, co-ordinated and sustainable development in the new year while taking economic development as the central task.

With the greatest sincerity, we will do our best to realise the peaceful reunification of the motherland. We are resolutely opposed to splittist activities and will never allow anybody to separate Taiwan from China in any way. China will work together with people of all countries to promote world peace and development and build a peaceful and prosperous world. We firmly believe mankind will have a bright future.

Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian

Over the past three years, with utmost sincerity and goodwill, this administration has made strenuous efforts in creating a positive environment for cross-strait relations, based on the principles of reconciliation, co-operation, and peace... despite the absence of a reciprocal response from China.

Over the past year, both Taiwan and China have suffered the impact of the Sars epidemic, posing a serious risk to peoples' lives and welfare. The governments and leaders on both sides of the Strait should share a common understanding that the security, happiness and well-being of our peoples are the highest of values. Peoples on both sides descend from common ancestors and share a similar cultural heritage and historical background. We should seek mutual understanding and cooperation

South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun

We should make the New Year the first year of political reform, liquidating regionalism and corruption in politics. The 17th general elections this year will be a touchstone. All politicians and citizens should pool their energy and wisdom to take an epochal new turn toward allying regionalism and realizing clean politics.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat

Our goal and dream is the elimination and defeat of all forms of occupation and settlement from our land and holy places. Our goal is to enable our people to attain their freedom and independence and establish their independent state with holy Jerusalem as its capital... Our people are determined to proceed along the path of establishing the peace of the brave as signed with our late partner [former Israeli Prime Minister] Yitzhak Rabin.

We want real peace, the peace of the brave that realises an historic reconciliation between the Palestinian and Israeli people and guarantees a free and dignified life and security for each side within its state and borders. This year will be the year of winning world public opinion to the side of our people's just struggle.

Russian President Vladimir Putin

We are seeing out 2003. Of course, it was a mixed year. There were difficulties and mistakes, and many unresolved problems remain. But together we sought and found needed solutions. And everything that we achieved was not a mere gift of fate, because we spent all year working with persistence. We worked both for ourselves and for the well-being of our families. And all this contributed to our common success.

It is particularly gratifying that we saw more new citizens of Russia born in the outgoing year than last. 2004 is just a few seconds away now. I wish you every success in all your projects. And the realisation of all your plans. May your homes be cosy. May inner peace, warmth and plenty be with you not just on New Year's night, but throughout your lives.

French President Jacques Chirac

The year 2003 was marked around the world by instability, tensions and crises: The war in Iraq, terrorism, attacks and violence in the Middle East, the troubles in Ivory Coast. Everywhere France has strongly and clearly assumed its responsibilities in the cause of peace and of respect for the law. It will continue to act in this manner. France will continue to carry aloft a great ambition for a Europe at the service of all its citizens.

At present we must take up an unprecedented challenge, that of giving our enlarged Europe a common set of rules. France, with Germany, and with our other partners, intends to place itself at the forefront of this great project. The challenge for 2004 is to take the best possible advantage of growth with one priority in mind, that of employment... a mobilisation for jobs. We must restore the full meaning to a secularism which must be open, generous, and capable of bring about harmony among all the French.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder

A few days ago a horrendous earthquake destroyed the town of Bam in Iran. The natural disaster has caused incredible human suffering. The great compassion and the readiness to help show we Germans know we are part of one world. Disasters, war, violence, or terrorism affect us even though they take place at a distance. Sometimes we can help by donating money, sometimes we have to use soldiers to live up to our responsibility for this one world. However, Germany can bear this responsibility in the long run only if it remains a strong country, above all, in economic terms. Last year we had to react to great changes: we reacted to the fact that globalisation is increasingly influencing our economy, too. We have started to adjust the social security systems to the fact that life expectancy luckily keeps rising but that the number of births has steadily declined.

In the new year, we will work on making Germany strong and ready for the future in all fields, so that it can maintain and regain the top places in the world. Taxes will be further reduced for everybody as of tomorrow [1 January]. As a result, the economic upswing, which is already emerging clearly, can gain speed. If Germany modernises itself with determination and cohesion, not only our own country will benefit. All of Europe is looking at and hoping for our efforts. And we are looking at and hoping for Europe: because together we rely on the balance of interests, on strong international partnerships, and on the policy of the United Nations.

South African President Thabo Mbeki

We have come to the end of an eventful 2003 and the beginning of the historic year when we will be celebrating the first decade of our Liberation. This year we have continued to make new advances towards the achievement of the goal of a better life for all. Nevertheless, we should not forget that there are still many of our people who live in conditions of poverty and deprivation, many of our people who are unemployed. Many of our people continue to die earlier than they should because of poverty and the impact of diseases of poverty as well as infectious diseases. To make matters worse, we still face the challenge of high levels of criminal violence, which continues to claim especially the lives of many poor people.

Even as we celebrate during this festive season, we must spread the message of Letsema [volunteerism]. We must draw many more of our people to work as one in a people's contract to ensure that acting together, we overcome the scourge of poverty and underdevelopment. During 2004, we will hold our third democratic general elections. We urge all our people, especially the youth, to register as voters and exercise their important democratic right and duty to vote.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni

The [Joseph] Kony terror in the northeast has been defeated decisively. Many Kony fighters were killed. The remnants of [the Lord's Resistance Army] have now fled back to their Acholi area. I wish to salute the people of Teso and people of Lango, as well as their leaders for rising up against these hoodlums. I also salute the people of Acholi for standing up against these killers, all these years.

Aids still remains a problem. We must close all the loopholes through which Aids is coming. The main route is promiscuity. Anti-retrovirals are not a cure. They prolong life, all right. However, that life is permanently gloomy. Avoid unprotected sex if you are promiscuous.

Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi

Our national identity and love for the fatherland have been enriched by new impulses stemming from the progress made in unifying Europe. This was significant progress: Let us not be fooled by the failure of a single conference. We have overcome many obstacles, and will do so this time too. It will not be easy to complete the process which will give this big European Union a constitution.

Together, we can deal better with the crises of some big firms, whose negative effects go well beyond the already serious consequences within the firm. They affect the prestige and the credibility of the entire economic and financial system and jeopardise the bond of trust between small investors and companies and middlemen. Trust is everything, it is the force which makes us go ahead and build the future. Today, in Europe and Italy, we are not growing especially because there is no trust.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard

The capture of Saddam Hussein and the highly significant decision of Libya to give up its weapons of mass destruction provided a positive end to the year. In 2004, there can be no let up in the struggle against international terrorism. We are all its potential targets. As in the past, the government's goals in the New Year will be to maintain for Australia national security, economic strength and social stability.

Emperor Akihito of Japan

I sincerely hope that this year will be a bright one for the people of Japan and the rest of the world. Last year, severe economic and social conditions continued to prevail in Japan. Overseas, there were tragic incidents in which many lives, including Japanese, were lost. I can well imagine that there are many who have been enduring hardship and spending painful days. In this coming year, it is my hope that all of you will make every effort, helping one another, for people's own happiness and the further development of our country.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.


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