Due to international divisions on Syria, there are no formal meetings on the 18-month-old conflict. But UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon acknowledged that it will be “foremost” on everyone’s mind.
The worsening civil war will feature strongly in speeches by US President Barack Obama and other Western leaders.
No senior leader from Russia or China, which have vetoed three UN Security Council resolutions on Syria, will be present.
Everyone at the UN meeting will be looking for signs that new UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, who will be holding meetings on the sidelines, has a plan for a political transition to which President Bashar al-Assad could agree.
Brahimi is set to brief the Security Council on Monday on recent talks with Assad. The Security Council is also due to hold a ministerial meeting Wednesday on links with the Arab League, where Syria will dominate.
The European Union plans to launch a humanitarian appeal for Syria on the sidelines of the UN meetings and the Friends of Syria group of countries are scheduled to meet on Friday.
MALI AND THE SAHEL
The move by Al-Qaeda-linked groups and rebels into northern Mali has added to international fears for nine Sahel countries gripped by a growing humanitarian crisis with 18.7 million people needing food help because of drought, poor harvest and conflict.
A UN summit on the Sahel will be held on Wednesday with France’s President Francois Hollande and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton calling for action against extremists and arms and drugs traffickers.
Ban could name a special envoy for the Sahel and outline his strategy to tackle the region’s problems.
West African nations want to send a military intervention force to Mali, but the UN Security Council has doubts about its means and aims, and diplomats say it could take months to organize.
This should be the last appearance by Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the UN General Assembly, where his attacks on Israel during speeches often spark a protest walkout.
He must in theory stand down next year after two terms. Ahmadinejad’s appearances around New York cause traffic jams and security chaos.
This time, however, the talk is dominated by speculation that Israel could stage a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Ahmadinejad speaks on Wednesday.
Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States will hold talks on Iran’s nuclear drive on Thursday — the same day that Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the general assembly.