- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 6, 2010

NEW YORK | Queen Elizabeth II on Tuesday placed a wreath at the site of the Sept. 11 attacks during her first visit to New York City in more than 30 years.

The 84-year-old British monarch braved 100-degree heat to pay her respects at ground zero near the footprint of the World Trade Center’s south tower.

She wore a straw hat and pastel-colored long-sleeved dress and did not appear to break a sweat while greeting Sept. 11 family members and first responders.

In a 15-minute visit to the site, she put a wreath of peonies, roses, lilies and other flowers on a wooden riser. After ground zero, the queen visited a British garden where she honored the 67 Britons killed in the 2001 attack.

Earlier in the day, Elizabeth challenged the United Nations to spearhead the international response to global dangers and promote prosperity and dignity for all the world’s inhabitants.

“In my lifetime, the United Nations has moved from being a high-minded aspiration to being a real force for common good,” she told diplomats from the 192 U.N. member states. “That of itself has been a signal achievement. But we are not here to reminisce. In tomorrow’s world, we must all work together as hard as ever if we are truly to be United Nations.”

Speaking as queen of 16 U.N. member states and head of the Commonwealth of 54 countries with a population of nearly 2 billion people, Elizabeth recalled the dramatic changes in the world since she last visited the United Nations in 1957, especially in science, technology and social attitudes.

But she also praised the U.N.’s aims and values which have endured - promoting peace, security and justice, fighting hunger, poverty and disease and protecting the rights and liberties of every citizen.

“For over six decades, the United Nations has helped to shape the international response to global dangers,” the queen said. “The challenge now is to continue to show this clear … leadership while not losing sight of your ongoing work to secure the security, prosperity and dignity of our fellow human beings.”

Elizabeth and her husband, Prince Philip, flew to New York from Canada for a five-hour visit Tuesday. Dressed in a two-piece white, blue and beige print dress with a ruffled hem and a matching brimmed champagne-colored silk hat with flowers, the queen was greeted on her arrival by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and General Assembly President Ali Abdessalam Treki and their wives.

After posing for photos in front of U.N. flags, she went to the memorial to U.N. peacekeepers and staff members killed in the line of duty and placed a wreath before the tattered U.N. flag that flew over U.N. headquarters in Baghdad on Aug. 19, 2003, when the building was bombed, killing top U.N. envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello and 21 others.

The queen then walked slowly into the two-thirds full chamber, as past diplomats gave her a standing ovation. Before her speech, she sat in a beige leather chair where she spent a half-minute fishing her reading glasses out of her black handbag, resealing the clasp and laying her speech out on her lap, tasks made harder because of her white gloves.

She looked up to occasionally peer out at the crowd, where the visitor and press upper galleries were full, scanning left and right and then looking intently straight forward. Her hands lay quietly on her speech.

Mr. Treki welcomed the queen, noting that when she last spoke to the United Nations “the world was rebuilding from a devastating world war, Cold War tensions and nuclear annihilation threatened the existence of all humanity … and women were expected to stay at home.”

While the queen had witnessed “the birth of a multitude of independent nation states based on the principles of equal rights,” he said, the world is still “blighted by extreme levels of inequality, with billions living in extreme poverty.”

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