Kofi Annan cites Truman in speech chiding US on unilateralism

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Kofi Annan, the departing secretary general of the United Nations, challenged the Bush administration yesterday to shun go-it-alone diplomacy and remain committed to observing human rights as it acts to forestall terrorism.

In a speech delivered at the Truman Presidential Museum and Library in Independence, Mo., billed as his last address to an American audience as secretary general, Mr. Annan said, “You Americans did so much, in the last century, to build an effective multilateral system, with the United Nations at its heart. Do you need it less today, and does it need you less than 60 years ago?”

Mr. Annan did not directly cite the Bush administration, with which he has had a fraught relationship, but he made his rebuke of current American foreign policy clear by urging a return to “far-sighted American leadership, in the Truman tradition.”...

He reminded his audience that Mr. Truman had once said, “We all have to recognize, no matter how great our strength, that we must deny ourselves the license to do always as we please.”

Mr. Annan also cited President Truman’s statement that “the responsibility of great states is to serve and not dominate the peoples of the world,” and noted approvingly how Mr. Truman had used American power to face down a threat to international order during his administration.

“He believed strongly that henceforth security must be collective and indivisible,” Mr. Annan said. “That was why, for instance, that he insisted, when faced with aggression by North Korea against the South in 1950, on bringing the issue to the United Nations and placing U.S. troops under the U.N. flag, at the head of a multinational force.”

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