By John-Henry Westen

NEW YORK, September 21, 2006 ( – On Tuesday, Secretary General Kofi Annan delivered his final address to the United Nations General Assembly before he retires at the end of the year. During the speech, which comes on the heels of the media-generated controversy regarding Pope Benedict XVI’s quoting of a text on Islam, Annan said, “insensitivity towards other people’s beliefs or sacred symbols –- intentional or otherwise—is seized upon by those who seem eager to foment a new war of religion on a global scale.”

“Moreover, this climate of fear and suspicion is constantly refuelled by the violence in the Middle East”, he said, adding: “We might like to think of the Arab-Israeli conflict as just one regional conflict amongst many. But it is not. No other conflict carries such a powerful symbolic and emotional charge among people far removed from the battlefield.”

Annan sees the United Nations as the only solution to the world’s woes.“Yes, I remain convinced that the only answer to this divided world must be a truly United Nations”, he said.

Climate change, HIV/AIDS, fair trade, migration, human rights -–“all these issues, and many more, bring us back to that point”, he said, adding: “addressing each is indispensable for each of us in our village, in our neighbourhood, and in our country. Yet each has acquired a global dimension that can only be reached by global action, agreed and coordinated through this most universal of institutions”.

“All must play their part in a true multilateral world order, with a renewed, dynamic United Nations at its centre”, he said.

See the press release on the speech: