- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 23, 2008

President Bush told world leaders at the United Nations on Tuesday that he is taking bold steps to prevent economic meltdown in the U.S., and that he is working with Congress to enact his $700 billion plan quickly.

“I can assure you that my administration and our Congress are working together to quickly pass legislation,” Mr. Bush said. “I’m confident we will act in the urgent time frame required.”

In his final address as president to the U.N. general assembly, Mr. Bush told the delegates that he is aware that an economic collapse in the U.S. would ripple around the world.

“In recent weeks we have taken bold steps to prevent a severe disruption of the U.S. economy, which would have a devastating effect on other economies around the world,” he said.

Mr. Bush’s speech, however, touched only briefly on the economic crisis,

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In speeches bookending Mr. Bush’s address, Brazilian President Luiz Lula da Silva and French President Nicolas Sarkozy both voiced grave concerns about the problems in U.S. and global markets.

Mr. Sarkozy called the current situation “the most serious economic crisis that the world has experienced since that of the 1930’s.”

Mr. da Silva called it a “harsh reality” and said that “the global nature of this crisis means the solutions we adopt must also be global.”

Both leaders also had harsh words for financial speculators and called for more aggressive oversight of financial markets, while Mr. da Silva denounced the possibility that the losses of wealthy investment bankers would be “socialized.”

“We must not allow the boundless greed of a few to be shouldered by all,” he said.

Mr. Sarkozy also said that “those who place in jeopardy peoples savings need to be punished.”

The Bush administration has resisted congressional calls to limit pay for CEO’s of failed financial firms, saying it might prompt executives not to cooperate with the bailout plan and hurt the government’s efforts to fix the problem.

Mr. Bush said earlier in the day to reporters that he has been sought out by world leaders during his less than 24 hours in New York, who are looking for reassurances that his administrations economic rescue plan will work.

“One of the things I’ve heard here in my stay thus far in New York is from world leaders wondering whether or not the United States has the right plan to deal with this economic crisis,” Mr. Bush said, during a meeting with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari.

“And I’ve assured them that the plan laid out by [Treasury Secretary Henry] Paulson is a robust plan to deal with a serious problem,” he said.

Global leaders have also raised questions about whether Democrats in Congress will agree to pass a bill quickly, as debate on Capitol Hill has already caused markets to dive this week.

“I’m confident,” the president said, “that there will be a bipartisan bill … to address the financial situation and provide a rescue plan to make sure that there’s some stability in the markets.”

The president is speaking to the United Nations Tuesday morning in New York.

The White House laid down an even more strict line than Mr. Bush, stressing that, in their view, Congress must pass legislation by the end of this week.

“There should be no question out there that this plan will get done this week,” said White House spokesman Tony Fratto on a conference call. “We are very, very confident that it will get done this week. We believe it needs to get done this week.”

Mr. Fratto said it is “unthinkable” that Congress would work into next week on the rescue plan.

“It would be a very, very serious situation for our economy were we not to get this legislation passed.”

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