Ripostes, concerns on nuclear, climate threats at UN Assembly

Source: Xinhua| 2017-09-21 13:09:42|Editor: Yang Yi
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by William M. Reilly

UNITED NATIONS, Sept. 20 (Xinhua) -- The ebb and flow of the audience in the General Debate of the 72nd Session of the UN General Assembly depends on the topics discussed in the hall. One of Wednesday's main draws was Iranian President Hassan Rouhani as he laid into the United States over its nuclear deal.

On Tuesday, U.S. President Donald Trump was highly critical of the Iran nuclear agreement, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, calling it "an embarrassment" for Washington and threatening to withdraw from the accord.

"I declare before you that the Islamic Republic of Iran will not be the first country to violate the agreement," Rouhani said during his mid-day speech before a sizable crowd on the second day of the debate. "But it will respond decisively and resolutely to (the deal's) violation by any party."

"It will be a great pity if this agreement were to be destroyed by rogue newcomers to the world of politics," said Rouhani, in a tacit reference to Trump, who had called Iran a "rogue" state on Tuesday.

"The world will have lost a great opportunity, but such unfortunate behavior will never impede Iran's course of progress and advancement," Rouhani said.

He said that Trump's "ignorant, absurd and hateful rhetoric filled with ridiculously baseless allegations" was unfit to be heard at the United Nations, which was established to promote peace and respect between nations, and contradicted the demand to bring governments together to combat war and terror.

The Iranian president said his nation's defense capabilities, including missiles, are solely a defensive deterrence. Iran had never intended to acquire nuclear weapons.

The Iran nuclear deal was reached under former U.S. President Barack Obama in July 2015 between Iran and Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States.

President Almazbek Atambayev of Kyrgyzstan shared a problem many states are suffering from in a variety of ways -- climate change, which is leading to increased flooding.

He said it was a particular menace in mountainous countries like Kyrgyzstan, hitting all sectors of the economy and increasing the frequency of avalanches. The destruction of glaciers was another problem, both for Kyrgyzstan and its neighbors.

Prosperity would hinge partly on the effective use of scarce water resources and regional disputes over water use must be settled through cooperation among the countries affected, Atambayev said.

Besides, the management of uranium stockpiles inherited from the former Soviet Union was a significant threat to the region, particularly as many of them were located near water resources, he said.

President Juan Carlos Varela Rodriguez of Panama expressed condolences to Cuba, Mexico, the United States and Caribbean nations suffering natural disasters recently. Many other speakers empathized with Mexico after it suffered a massive earthquake on Tuesday.

Noting that those events signaled the need for solidarity, the Panamanian president said the world stood at a juncture marked by terrorism, organized crime, and increase in forced migration caused by war, poverty and inequality.

Peace is a "human construct" and the fruit of negotiations, he said, adding that the most appropriate way to confront the world's challenges was by placing humans at the heart of all decision-making.

That has been the strategy of his own administration, he said, adding that elected leaders must understand that they bore responsibilities to their people.

The theme of the 72nd General Assembly is "Focusing on People: Striving for Peace and a Decent Life for All on a Sustainable Planet."

Rwandan President Paul Kagame was critical of key policy issues, from development to women's rights and the role the United Nations is playing in humanitarian assistance.

There was a sense that the United Nations had not yet met many needs and expectations, he said, but still commended UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for championing important UN reform initiatives and the response to sexual exploitation and abuse, particularly in peacekeeping missions.

Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, said the United Nations was the best tool available to address today's conflicts, famine, forced displacement, terrorism and the return of nuclear tensions.

He said it was imperative that the United Nations rose to those challenges. The EU expected it to become a more energetic and less bureaucratic organization that acted with clarity and purpose in all its actions.

The 28-member EU considers reform proposals as the bare minimum, Tusk said. "What is needed is more ambition, not less."