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IN THE NEWS - September 7, 2002: UN General Assembly Meeting - 2002-09-06

This is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program, IN THE NEWS.

The General Assembly of the United Nations will officially open its fifty-seventh meeting on Tuesday. Representatives from around the world will attend the yearly meeting at U-N headquarters in New York City. The meeting usually lasts about three months.

The United Nations was created after World War Two. It was established by fifty-one countries in October, Nineteen-Forty-Five. It was formed to strengthen international peace and security and to help settle conflicts among nations. Now, almost every nation in the world belongs to the U-N General Assembly. Each member nation has one vote in the Assembly. Jan Kavan of the Czech Republic is the current General Assembly president. Mister Kavan was elected in July. He replaces Han Seung-soo of South Korea.

On Wednesday, U-N officials plan to attend ceremonies honoring those killed last year in the September eleventh terrorist attacks. Many diplomats experienced shock after terrorists hijacked two airplanes and crashed them into the World Trade Center buildings in New York. Last year, the General Assembly meeting was to begin on September eleventh. Because of the attacks, the U-N headquarters was forced to close.

Leaders of many nations speak to the General Assembly during the first weeks of the meeting. President Bush will speak on Thursday. He is expected to call for action against Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

The President says Iraq has failed to act on international agreements to stop developing biological, chemical or nuclear weapons. He says the Iraqi leader could help terrorists get such weapons. Mister Bush wants Saddam Hussein removed from power.

Leaders of many countries oppose military action against Iraq. Earlier this week, Arab League foreign ministers declared support for restarting the U-N arms inspection program in Iraq. But they rejected the use of military force.

A major goal of the U-N is to help prevent conflicts and end wars. General Assembly members will discuss situations of tension and fighting in many areas of the world.

The U-N provides peacekeeping forces that have been deployed around the world. It also holds international meetings on important issues. For example, the U-N World Summit on Sustainable Development ended this week in Johannesburg, South Africa. Delegates agreed on a plan designed to protect the environment and help poor people in developing countries. However, many activists are unhappy with the agreement.

Such disputes at U-N organizations and meetings are not unusual. Neither are criticisms of the international organization. Some people say the U-N is weak. Yet others say the United Nations is extremely important for world peace.

This VOA Special English program, IN THE NEWS, was written by George Grow. This is Steve Ember.