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Clinton welcomes world leaders to U.N. Millennium Summit
Deaths in West Timor cast shadow over historic conference
By KC Wildmoon
(CNN) -- More than 150 global leaders began a search for common paths to peace in the 21st century on Wednesday as the United Nations Millennium Summit, the largest gathering of heads of state in history, opened in New York.
But the historic summit opened on a somber note, with a moment of silence for three U.N. staff members killed in West Timor just hours before the conference began.
"This tragedy underlines the danger faced by unarmed humanitarian workers serving the U.N. in conflict and post-conflict situations," U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan said.
U.S. President Bill Clinton stressed the importance of the U.N. peacekeeping missions in a welcoming address, challenging the conference to "rewrite human history in the new millennium."
"We now see fewer wars between nations, but more wars within them," Clinton said, adding that the U.N. must find a way to not only protect sovereign borders, but also the people who live within them.
"Everywhere in every land people of every station matter. Everyone counts," he said. "Everyone has a role to play. We all do better when we help each other."
Putin proposes space militarization conference
Clinton headed a list of 63 world leaders slated to speak on Wednesday, a slate that included 37 presidents, 15 prime ministers, two kings, a chancellor, a vice president, a crown prince and a deputy prime minister.
In his opening remarks, Annan told the assembled leaders that their "peoples look to you to solve problems, expect you to work together as governments ... with other institutions."
"We need to decide our priorities ... adapt so that in the future those are reflected in clear and prompt decisions," he said. "That, my friends, is what the people expect of us. Let us not disappoint them."
Russian President Vladimir Putin praised the U.N.'s 55-year record, saying that its values have "become the norm of international relations" in a period of both "revolutionary breakthroughs and profound disillusionments."
The next few years, Putin said, "must become a period of real disarmament," with agreements on proliferation and production of nuclear weapons. Putin also proposed a conference on the militarization of outer space to coincide with the anniversary next spring of Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin's trip in 1961 aboard Vostok I -- the world's first manned flight into space.
Annan calls for 'millennium of hope and peace'
Annan welcomed the world leaders on Tuesday, urging them to use the unprecedented meeting to forge peace and end poverty in the 21st century.
Annan rang the U.N.'s Japanese Peace Bell -- a gift of United Nations Association of Japan in 1954, cast from the pennies of children from 60 nations -- calling on the leaders to "seize the opportunity ... and make it truly the historic occasion it should be."
"Today let us hear the bell ring loud and clear and true to our conscience," Annan said. "Let it ring out a century of cruelty and destruction and let it ring in a millennium of hope and peace."
Castro to travel to United States for U.N. summit
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