Annan raps US in farewell speech

United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan took a sharp farewell swipe at United States foreign policy on Monday, implying America had ditched core principles in its battle against global terrorism.

In a striking speech, Annan also implied Bush administration policies had harmed his country’s reputation as a global human rights leader and said he prayed for “farsighted American leadership”.

Annan chose the symbolic venue of the Independence, Missouri, library of US ex-president Harry Truman, whom he lionised for his support of the early UN, to raise contrasts with recent US policies that have sparked frequent, fierce clashes with the world body.

“Human rights and the rule of law are vital to global security and prosperity,” said Annan, noting past US leadership in the global human rights struggle.

“But that lead can only be maintained if America remains true to its principles—including in the struggle against terrorism,” said Annan.

“When it appears to abandon its own ideals and objectives, its friends abroad are naturally troubled and confused,” he added.

“The US has given the world an example of a democracy in which everyone, including the most powerful, is subject to legal restraint.”

“Its current moment of world supremacy gives it a priceless opportunity to entrench the same principles at the global level.”

Though he neither mentioned Iraq, nor the Bush administration by name, his remarks appeared to be a criticism of the US drive to war to topple Saddam Hussein in 2003, and the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive action against looming threats.

He argued that no nation could make its actions legitimate to others if they could not convince the world the use of military force was legitimate and for “broadly shared aims—in accordance with broadly accepted norms”.

In an age of threats like weapons of mass destruction in the hands of rogue states, terrorism, and health threats like Sars, no nation could salvage its own security alone, Annan warned.

“Against such threats as these, no nation can make itself secure by seeking supremacy over all others. We share the responsibility for each other’s security,” he said.

Annan also demanded action from global states with “military muscle” to stop the humanitarian crisis in Darfur, and called for action on climate change, an area where the Bush administration has also attracted stiff criticism.

He also said the world needed leadership to break the deadlock in the stalled global-trade negotiations.

“Even in the next few weeks and months, you Americans can make a crucial difference to many millions of poor people, if you are prepared to save the Doha Round.”

Annan’s remarks came less than a week after he was feted at a White House dinner by Bush to mark his retirement on December 31.

Bush spokesperson Tony Snow said the event for Annan, who recently raised hackles among US officials for branding the conflict in Iraq a “civil war”, showed “the president is somebody who does not think that, because you disagree with somebody, you can’t be hospitable to them and thank them for their service”.

Annan will step down after 10 years as the world’s top diplomat and be replaced by South Korea’s Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon.—AFP

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