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Clinton's war on 'new perils'

UN 50th anniversary: US President pledges fight against twin scourges of drugs and terrorism that have replaced Cold War

New York

President Bill Clinton told world leaders yesterday that the perils of the Cold War had been buried only to be replaced by terrorism and drugs. He urged joint action to combat these "scourges".

The first among some 140 world leaders to address the 50th anniversary session of the United Nations in New York, Mr Clinton proposed the negotiation of an international declaration committing world governments to fighting global crime. The agreement would include a common pledge to deny sanctuary to such criminals so that they would have "nowhere to run, nowhere to hide".

Mr Clinton's remarks came amid a smorgasbord of proposals and exhortations for improved world peace, security and equality made during the first of three days of celebrations. The Russian president, Boris Yeltsin, also signalled the convention of a "Third Peace Conference" in Moscow in 1999 to tackle regional conflicts proliferating after the Cold War.

The subtext running through all the speeches was the dire financial position of the UN, attributed in particular to $1.3bn (pounds 828m) of unpaid dues by the United States. The Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, called for an emergency session of the General Assembly early next year to work on solving the crisis.

"The financial crisis is a symptom of a deeper problem: member states simply do not regard the UN as a priority. This is sad news to report to this commemorative session," the Secretary-General said.

Unable simply to flourish a cheque for the missing funds because of deep antipathy to funding the UN in Congress, Mr Clinton vowed only to work with Capitol Hill on producing the money. He asked in return for proof of genuine progress on fundamental reform of the organisation.

"The UN must be able to show that the money it receives supports saving and enriching people's lives, not unneeded overheads." But pledging his own support for the UN and its goals, he concluded: "We still need the UN. And so, for another 50 years and beyond, you can count the United States in."

On global crime, Mr Clinton announced several unilateral initiatives, including steps to identify countries that tolerate money-laundering by drugs barons as well as action to tackle front companies for the cartels. The US, he said, had decided to freeze the assets of the Cali cartel. Of the money-launderers, he said: "We cannot allow them to wash the blood of profits from the sale of drugs, from terror or organised crime."

Mr Yeltsin appealed for a new emphasis on using the Security Council as the principal forum for resolving conflicts. He made specific reference to Russian displeasure at the role that was given to Nato in forcing an end to the war in Bosnia. "It is inadmissible for a regional organisation to make decisions as to the mass use of force, bypassing the Security Council," he railed.

The Russian president also reiterated his opposition to the proposed eastward expansion of Nato, asking instead for the creation of a new all- European security organisation. "The question is an extremely acute one: either such a system should be established for all Europe, or, as in the past, for the selected few. The strengthening of one bloc today means a new confrontation tomorrow."