Bush: Russia violated UN Charter
It was the last address of George Bush before such a global audience in the role of the U.S. President. George Bush says Russia violated international law when it sent its troops to repeal Georgia's aggression against South Ossetia.
“We must stand united in our support of the people of Georgia. The UN Charter stands for the equal rights of nations, large and small. Russia’s invasion of Georgia was a violation of those words,” Bush said.
Russia's Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, who's representing Russia at the UN General Assembly, responded quickly to President Bush’s criticisms.
“Of course the U.S. President had to reconsider his view on what happened in the Caucasus. We do not agree with his view. We were defending the lives of our citizens. We were acting in accordance with international law and the UN charter,” said the Foreign Minister.
Leaders and chief diplomats from almost 200 nations have gathered for the UN General Assembly on Tuesday. Their agenda includes the global financial crisis and the way it may affect the UN's plan to tackle African poverty, as well as Iran's nuclear ambitions and the recent military conflict in Georgia.
Meanwhile, a recent report shows that in the last few years, votes at the UN General Assembly in favour of the U.S. position on human rights have seen a dramatic drop – from 77 to 30 per cent, while support for Russia's position has risen from around 50 per cent to 76, according to the European Council on Foreign Relations.
The trend though certainly doesn't include the Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili who echoed his American allies.
“Will we encourage violent and hateful separatists around the world standing aside with state sovereignty subverted?” Saakashvili said.
Despite such rhetoric from its President, a recent study by the U.S.-based international NGO Freedom House says Georgia is less free and democratic than any other candidate for EU or NATO membership. The NGO puts the country in the same category as Nigeria.
But the day wasn't all about fighting. Some world leaders have been looking for ways to get friendly.
Bush’s address was followed by a speech by French President Nicolas Sarkozy who was much softer when he spoke about Russia. He said that Europe wants Russia to be its partner and to share a common future with Russia.
“Europe doesn't want a new cold war. Europe wants peace and because it wants peace, that's why Europe is telling Russia it wants links of solidarity with Russia. That it wants to build a shared future. That it wants to be a partner with Russia. Why then not build a continent-wide economic space which would unite Russia and Europe?” Sarkozy said.
And Russia welcomes this approach.
“President Sarkozy has outlined an interesting agenda, including underlining the necessity to more collectively decide on the most important issues,” Sergey Lavrov said.
And though the U.S. and Russia's positions may differ on the Caucasus, Lavrov reaffirmed Russia's desire to co-operate in solving global problems.
“Bush paid far more attention to global threats such as issues of international terrorism, epidemic diseases, drug trafficking and human trafficking. All these priorities are very much those of Russia,” Lavrov said.
On Wednesday Lavrov will have a working breakfast with Henry Kissinger and meet with his U.S. counterpart Condoleezza Rice.
Political analyst Aleksandr Pikaev, from the Institute of World Economy and International Relations, believes the U.S. has no right to accuse Russia of violating the UN charter.
“The statements of American leaders are not very convincing. President Bush should remember that he himself attacked Iraq early in 2003 under false pretext of looking for weapons of mass destruction,” Pikaev said.
South Ossetia is a victim of NATO – Ahmadinejad
Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accused the United States and its NATO allies of “bullying” and said the U.S. foreign policy has divided the international community.
He pointed to the recent conflict in Georgia and South Ossetia as a key example.
“The lives, properties and rights of the people of Georgia, Ossetia and Abkhazia are victims of the tendencies and provocations of NATO and certain Western powers,” said Ahmadinejad.
The United States is now pushing for a fourth round of sanctions against Iran, saying that the Islamic state's nuclear enrichment programme is a danger to the world. Iran's president insists that every country has “an inalienable right to produce nuclear fuel for peaceful purposes”.
Kosovo and economic crisis on the agenda
Also at the UN General Assembly the Serbian President Boris Tadic has made his address in which he said his country will take additional steps to resolve the issue of Kosovo in a way acceptable for Belgrade.
Tadic noted the unilateral declaration of Kosovo's independence undermines the whole international security system.
Protestors fight for spotlight outside UN
Thousands of protesters assumed position on Monday as world leaders prepared to descend on New York City for the 63rd UN General Assembly.
Demonstrators rallied against U.S. President George Bush and the use of ‘water-boarding’, a form of torture reportedly used against prisoners of war in Iraq.
Others gathered to protest against Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose nuclear ambitions as well as human rights violations have been criticized. Israeli supporters rallied near the UN Headquarters, condemning the arrival of Iran’s controversial President.
“Ahmadinejad is a person who is inciting war crimes, inciting genocide against humanity. If that's the case – he has no business being here. And the world needs to take his problems seriously. The problem of a nuclear Iran is a problem that can not be tolerated in this world,” one of the protesters said.
While the majority were denouncing the presence of the Iranian president, there was also a small group of Jewish people that welcomed his message and called for diplomacy.
Members of Jews United Against Zionism demonstrated behind barricades calling for an end to Israel's occupation of Palestinian territory. They consider Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a peaceful leader and say he deserves more respect from the West.
“President Ahmadinejad, who I personally spoke to for hours – we met him many times – he insists he has nothing against the Jews. He respects, protects them,” Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss from Jew United Against Zionism said.