Ban calls for global action on poverty

February 6, 2010 12:00 am

, MUNICH, Feb 6 – UN chief Ban Ki-moon on Saturday told an international security conference in Germany that poverty, hunger and climate change posed a major threat to humanity in the 21st century.

"There are now an unprecedented one billion hungry people in our world. In recent years we have seen food riots in dozens of countries," Ban told the main session of the Munich Security Conference by video link.

"Chronic poverty and the worst downturn in generations, these two are emergencies. They may not strike with the concentrated force but they tear societies apart, they steal across borders and they call for global action."

"That is why I want a 2010 in which we mount a global campaign for the Millennium Development Goals."

The 46-year-old, three-day gathering of around 300 top military, diplomatic and defence officials, is dubbed the "Davos of security policy" after last month\’s World Economic Forum in the Swiss ski resort.

Saturday\’s agenda was topped by prospects for nuclear disarmament and the Middle East peace process.

Scheduled speakers included US Senator John Kerry, National Security Advisor James Jones, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and UN atomic agency head Yukiya Amano.

Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi used his first appearance in Munich on Friday to launch a broadside on US arms sales to Taiwan and to resist pressure from Washington to take a tougher line on Iran over its nuclear programme.

Iran\’s foreign minister meanwhile used a late-night session to defend Tehran\’s human rights record, prompting several listeners to walk out early including former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright, observers said.

A deal unveiled last month to sell Taiwan, viewed by China as part of its territory, 6.4 billion dollars worth of military hardware is "obviously a violation of the code of conduct between nations," Yang said.

The spat is one of several issues to have contributed to a worsening of relations in recent weeks, together with the upcoming White House visit by the Dalai Lama and cyber attacks on US firms such as Google.

Amid pressure from the US and its close allies for more sanctions, Yang said that China was sticking to its position that a "mutually acceptable" solution to the spat over Iran\’s nuclear programme could "somehow" be found.

"This issue has entered a crucial stage. The parties concerned should… step up diplomatic efforts, stay patient and adopt a more flexible, pragmatic and proactive policy," he said.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, a surprise visitor to Munich, said Tehran was "serious" about sending some uranium abroad for enrichment and that a final deal was close.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad this week raised hopes of progress in the international stand-off over its nuclear activities by indicating that he might be ready to accept an offer to send some uranium abroad for enrichment.

Doing so would help soothe suspicions that Iran wanted to arm itself with nuclear weapons, but Western powers fear that the comments constitute a stalling tactic to head off a fourth round of sanctions.


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