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U.N. assembly adopts compromise agreement

UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday adopted a watered-down document on poverty, human rights and U.N. reform for world leaders to approve at a summit this week, after shedding many of Secretary-General Kofi Annan's most ambitious goals during weeks of bitter debate.

The compromise 35-page document is supposed to launch a major reform of the United Nations itself and galvanize efforts to ease global poverty. But to reach a consensus, most of the text's details were gutted in favor of abstract language.

A definition of terrorism and details on how to replace the discredited U.N. Commission on Human Rights were not included. U.S.-led efforts to overhaul U.N. management have been diluted, while nuclear nonproliferation isn't mentioned at all.

"Obviously we didn't get everything we wanted and with 191 member states it's not easy to get an agreement," Annan said. "All of us would have wanted more, but we can work with what we have been given, and I think it is an important step forward."

Annan had gambled that by calling the summit — the largest gathering of world leaders in history — he could push through a list of sweeping U.N. reforms and refocus attention on the Millennium Development Goals, a set of targets for reducing poverty and disease by 2015.

But diplomats said they had lowered their expectations in the last few days because the issues were too contentious. Still, they called the document a breakthrough after so much debate, especially because many had started the day pessimistic that they would have an agreement at all.

Several were pleased with the creation of a peacebuilding commission and a long section on development. That includes a mention of the desire by "many developed countries" to spend 0.7 percent of their gross national product on development.

"Don't expect Rome to be built in a day; it wasn't," Britain's U.N. Ambassador Emyr Jones-Parry said. "Against the difficulty of this negotiation, its complexity, this is a very substantial gain."

The outgoing president of the General Assembly, Gabon's Jean Ping, presented the compromise Tuesday afternoon in hopes of bridging the deepest divides and moving away from bitter line-by-line negotiations that had bogged down the debate.

Ambassadors including John Bolton said the document was just a step in a long process. It leaves many details for the U.N. General Assembly to settle in the coming months. "It would be wrong to claim more than is realistic and accurate about what these reforms are," Bolton said. "They represent steps forward, but this is not the alpha and the omega, and we never thought it would be."

Though Annan said he was mostly satisfied, the document was a significant step backward for him. In March, when he had unveiled his proposals, Annan had urged world leaders to expand the size of the Security Council, come up with a definition of terrorism and accept that they have a "responsibility to protect" those being killed, which requires collective action.