- The Washington Times - Monday, September 29, 2008

UNITED NATIONS | World leaders looked beyond the Bush administration during their speeches to the U.N. General Assembly, often addressing their remarks - even if indirectly - to the next U.S. president.

President Bush gave his eighth and final address as president to the world body as the annual session got under way last week. His speech was heavy on remarks about the need to fight terrorism and tyranny while supporting young democracies and foreign aid.

Many of the leaders and ministers then gave speeches that were directed at the U.S. and Mr. Bush’s successor, who will take office in January.

“The American empire in the world is reaching the end of its road,” said Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. “And its next rulers must limit their interference to their own borders.”

As the U.S. financial crisis billowed across foreign markets and U.S. troops remained in Afghanistan and Iraq, speakers beseeched future leaders of “the superpower” - as the U.S. is often known - to make peace with enemies, impose limits on capitalism and increase aid to poor nations.

U.S. officials, in public remarks at the United Nations and at bilateral meetings, affirmed the importance of the world body.

“To uphold the [U.N.] Charter’s promise of peace and security in the 21st century, we also must confront the ideology of the terrorists. At its core, the struggle against the extremists is a battle of ideas,” Mr. Bush said.

Anticipation of a new U.S. president in about three months has affected planning for Afghanistan and other initiatives, said French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner.

“The American elections are coming; there is a complex situation,” he told The Washington Times at a breakfast briefing. “People in Georgia, Afghanistan, Iraq, yes, there is a feeling, an expecting, a wondering if the candidate, the eventual new president, will follow the same line or change his conditions.”

In meetings on Afghanistan, Mr. Kouchner said “it is obvious” that troop-contributing European countries are not sure whether to plan for more or fewer U.S. troops.

“It will be possible to change, reverse the original by sending new troops or not,” Mr. Kouchner said.

He noted that Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barak Obama has said he plans to move troops from Iraq to Afghanistan, while Republican nominee Sen. John McCain has not been so explicit.

“We are talking about that. Twenty-five of 27 countries are involved in the Afghanistan battle. There is a sort of - not anxiety but hesitation,” Mr. Kouchner said.

Roughly three dozen nations declared their priorities throughout the week in formal remarks, private meetings, receptions, working dinners and sometimes combative press conferences.

Governments friendly to the U.S., as well as those that are estranged and unlikely to get direct hearings from U.S. officials, used their five to 20 minutes at the green marble podium to obliquely petition their causes.

Most of Cuban First Vice President Jose Ramon Machado Ventura’s six-page speech read like a letter of criticism to the United States.

“If the United States were really so concerned for the Cuban people, the only moral and ethical behavior would be to lift the blockade imposed on Cuba for the last five decades,” Mr. Machado said, echoing Havana’s decades-old refrain.

The United States has defended its trade embargo of non-humanitarian items as targeting the regime, not the people.

Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao urged the next president to respect the territorial integrity of sovereign nations.

“China is ready to develop friendly relations with all countries on the basis of equality and mutual benefit rather than on ideology or political system,” Mr. Wen said. “We will neither blindly follow the position of others nor give way to the pressure of any forces.”

The U.S. and other Western democracies have unsuccessfully urged China to use its economic and political leverage to halt human rights abuses in Burma and in Sudan’s Darfur region.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, a champion of the developing world, criticized the U.S. financial meltdown, which has sent tremors through foreign markets and sparked fears that aid and investment may be compromised.

“The economy is too serious an undertaking to be left in the hands of speculators,” he said shortly before Mr. Bush’s Tuesday speech. “Ethics must also apply to the economy. … A crisis of such magnitude will not be overcome with palliative measures. Mechanisms for both prevention and control are needed to provide total transparency to international finance.”

The U.S. Congress and the administration are expected this week to approve a rescue plan for failed financial institutions in an attempt to sustain the U.S. and global economies.

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