Veteran Libyan diplomat Ali Treki took the helm of the UN General Assembly, calling for stepped up efforts to achieve Mideast peace, close the widening gap between rich and poor, and eliminate nuclear weapons.
In his address on Tuesday to the opening of the assembly's 64th session, the former foreign minister and UN ambassador also called on all 192 member states to take part in the search for solutions to the global economic crisis, to address the roots of terrorism and keep working to reform the United Nations.
"We must put an end to wars and to their causes and consequences," Treki said. "Dialogue and mutual understanding are the way to resolve our problems. Embargoes and blockades are fruitless: they exacerbate antagonism and rebellion, while undermining respect for the international community."
The year-long presidency of the General Assembly rotates by region and Treki, who is currently Libya's minister of African Union affairs, was elected in June. He said the current session, which ends in September 2010, will focus on efforts to achieve UN development goals, including cutting extreme poverty by half and ensuring universal primary education by 2015, on achieving peace and security, and on promoting a dialogue among civilizations.
Despite efforts to combat poverty, Treki said, "the poor are becoming poorer and the rich are becoming richer, most often at the expense of the poor and by exploiting the resources with which they are endowed."
He said two "fundamental conditions for the swift realization of peace and security" in the Middle East are Palestinian independence and the right of its people to return to their land, he said. Treki called on Israel to halt settlement construction. "The removal of illegal and illegitimate settlements would help to achieve security and a just peace," he said.
While the General Assembly opened its new session Tuesday, the main event begins Sept. 23 when world leaders attend the opening of the annual ministerial session.
This year, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi will be attending for the first time, as will US President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. In addition to the presidency of the new General Assembly session, Libya also has a non-permanent seat on the Security Council.
The US holds the council presidency this month and Obama is chairing a summit meeting September 24 on nonproliferation and disarmament, an issue which resonates with Libya.
Gadhafi ended years of Libya's international isolation in 2003 when he renounced terrorism and gave up efforts to develop nuclear weapons. The same year, Libya accepted responsibility for the 1988 Pan Am airplane bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland, that killed 270 people.
Treki called on the General Assembly to address the roots of terrorism "and take a close look at its causes and contributing factors," noting that despite UN efforts and resolutions "terrorism continues to grow and spread."
The assembly must also "shoulder responsibility and work not only towards nonproliferation and elimination of nuclear weapons but also towards the elimination of other weapons of mass destruction," he said.
Treki's speech was far more moderate than Monday's final address by the outgoing General Assembly president, Miguel D'Escoto Brockmann, a Roman Catholic priest from Nicaragua with openly leftist views.
Brockmann warned that "the egoism, individualism, greed and exclusive national interests that characterise and drive human behavior today can lead only to the extinction of our species." He accused unnamed permanent members of the Security Council of thinking "they can act according to the law of the jungle" and do whatever they want with absolute impunity. And he said the time to reform the UN was past and it is now time "to reinvent it" to ensure equality of member states.