World leaders make many promises on war, education, poverty

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With a bang of a gavel and a round of applause, more than 150 world leaders wrapped up their Millennium Summit with promises to send every child to school and deliver hundreds of millions of people from destitution by the year 2015.

With a bang of a gavel and a round of applause, more than 150 world leaders wrapped up their Millennium Summit with promises to send every child to school and deliver hundreds of millions of people from destitution by the year 2015.

The historic summit to launch the United Nations in the third millennium ended at 8:01 p.m. Friday with significantly less fanfare than it began, as many of the presidents and prime ministers had already headed home to rest after three days of intensive speechmaking and diplomatic shoulder-rubbing.

But the anticlimax was almost appropriate as the summit closed with a stern warning from Secretary-General Kofi Annan that the promises the leaders made in an eight-page Millennium Declaration not remain words on paper.

"You have sketched out clear directions for adapting this organization to its role in the new century," Annan said. "But ultimately you are yourselves the United Nations.

"It lies in your power, and therefore it is your responsibility to reach the goals that you have defined."

In the declaration, the world leaders made a commitment to a new agenda for the 21st century - with a lofty goal of promoting democracy, strengthening human rights, ending wars and ensuring that all of the Earth's 6 billion inhabitants share in its wealth and prosperity.

One goal though - peace - eluded Israel and the Palestinians this week.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak had a brief encounter Friday with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, urging him to reach a peace agreement before time runs out.

Arafat was unresponsive, Barak said.

"No good," the Israeli leader told The Associated Press.

But the United Nations itself sought to make peace with irate New Yorkers, who endured three days of traffic jams and street closings to accommodate the largest ever gathering of world leaders - and the accompanying protests they brought.

"Thank You NY," will be spelled out using office lights on both sides of the glass-encased U.N. headquarters building on Sunday and Monday evenings "for all that New Yorkers have put up with this week," U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard said Friday.

"The secretary-general is aware that there was a great deal of disruption in the lives of ordinary citizens, but he hopes that they are proud of this reaffirmation that their city, and ours, is truly the capital of the world," he said.

In the summit declaration, the leaders promise major changes and set tough targets - to cut in half the proportion of people living on less than dlrs 1 a day, and the number of people who do not have safe drinking water, by the year 2015.

By that date, they also pledged that boys and girls everywhere will be able to complete primary school, and that the spread of HIV/AIDS and the scourge of malaria and other major diseases should be halted and reversed.

The declaration commits world leaders to improve the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers by 2020, and to close the so-called digital divide by working to make the fruits of globalization available to the poor as well as the rich.

There were some parts of the declaration that did not please the United States, though they were included in the final document. Among them was a provision calling upon the world's wealthy countries to cancel all the official debts of the poorest countries and to adopt policies of duty-free and quota-free access for exports from the least developed countries.

The United States also expressed reservations about several other aspects, including a call to convene an international conference "to identify ways of eliminating nuclear dangers" and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Annan praised the leaders for committing themselves to such concrete pledges.

"I am struck by the remarkable convergence of views on the challenge that faces us," Annan said. "And by the urgency of your call to action."

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