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Special Event

Millennium 2000: Kofi Annan Considers the Future of the United Nations

Aired January 3, 2000 - 6:16 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: The millennium's arrival is also delivering opportunity: a reminder to reflect, as well as look ahead. Few have as much to consider as the world's top peacemaker, the United Nation's secretary-general, Kofi Annan.

In the waning hours of 1999, he sat down for an exclusive interview with CNN's Richard Roth.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KOFI ANNAN, U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL: We have managed to avoid major world wars. Economically, most people are perhaps better off today than they were a century ago. Most of us are perhaps better educated than our parents or our grandparents. So there's a lot to be grateful for.

At the same time, we have the major inequalities between states and within states. We have the question of whole groups of people who are excluded from the economic and political process. And I think these are issues that one would want to tackle.

But I will say that generally, as we end the century, we are ending it on a better note than one would have expected, given the nature of this century.

RICHARD ROTH, CNN UNITED NATIONS CORRESPONDENT: What do you think the challenge is for the leaders of the world, who you are on the phone with a lot and who you meet in person and make a lot of promises in their speeches? Are there any specific challenges that you think you'd like to see them tackle?

ANNAN: I think one of the main issues I would want to see them tackle would be this whole question of eradication of poverty. I would want them to join us in the fight against AIDS epidemic, which is ravaging Africa and will spread to other parts of the world. It is just an international problem that we all need to tackle.

ROTH: You issued a clarion call at the beginning of the last general assembly section in effect that irrespective of international borders, human rights is a paramount concern and, in effect, allows outside forces perhaps to go in to defend human rights. Is this going to catch on in the next year ahead? ANNAN: I have argued that even though the U.N. is an organization of states that rights and the ideas we exist to protect and promote belongs to the people. And we have put the human being at the center of everything we do. We need to take steps to protect the individual if they are caught in interstate conflict. But if they are caught in an international situation, which is persistent, brutal, unrelentant abuse of their human rights or humanitarian rights, that we have no right -- and theirs a great, growing awareness around the world of people's rights and their dignity. And this consciousness is not going to allow governments, individually or collectively, to push human rights back into the bottle.

ROTH: But this time next year, will there be a settlement between the U.N. and Iraq? Do you have any kind of a hope there?

ANNAN: Well, we have lived with the issue for almost 10 years. We have major hurdles ahead of us. I hope all will cooperate. The Iraqi government will cooperate and that we can implement the resolution smoothly. But given the history of this particular crisis, I will not be -- it would be hasty for me to say that we will resolve it by the end of the year.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHEN: That exclusive interview with Kofi Annan was taped on New Year's Eve.

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