U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan has used his farewell address to caution the United States against sacrificing its ideals in the battle against terrorism. VOA's correspondent at the U.N., Peter Heinlein, reports, Mr. Annan spoke in the hometown of former U.S. President Harry Truman.
The secretary-general symbolically traveled to the Truman Presidential Museum and Library in Independence, Missouri, to make his final major speech in office. Truman was president when the world body was founded in 1945.
Addressing a crowd that included politicians and academics, Mr. Annan praised President Truman's efforts to help rebuild Europe after World War II.
Although the secretary-general did not name the Bush administration, he made it clear he was not satisfied with the current U.S. leadership.
"You Americans did so much, in the last century, to build an effective multilateral system, with the United Nations at its heart," said Kofi Annan. "Do you need it less today, and does it need you less, than 60 years ago? Surely not. More than ever today, Americans, like the rest of humanity, need a functioning global system, through which the world's peoples can face global challenges together. And, in order to function, the system still cries out for far-sighted American leadership, in the Truman tradition."
Mr. Annan cautioned Washington not to abandon its ideals as it carries out the fight against global terrorism.
"…This country has historically been in the vanguard of the global human rights movement," he said. "But that lead can only be maintained, if America remains true to its principles, including in the struggle against terrorism. When it appears to abandon its principles, including in the struggle against terrorism. When it appears to abandon its own ideals and objectives, its friends abroad are naturally troubled and confused."
Mr. Annan repeatedly invoked Harry Truman's name, and singled out the United States in urging nations to, in his words, "do the right thing," and "play by the rules."
"The U.S. has given the world an example of a democracy in which everyone, including the most powerful, is subject to legal restraint," noted Kofi Annan. "Its current moment of world supremacy gives it a priceless opportunity to entrench the same principles at the global level. As Harry Truman said, 'We all have to recognize, no matter how great our strength, that we must deny ourselves the license to always do as we please.'"
Several lawmakers from President Bush's Republican Party expressed irritation at Mr. Annan's comments. The retiring chairman of the House International Relations Committee, Congressman Henry Hyde, said the secretary-general had failed to mention "rampant financial and moral mismanagement" at the United Nations. He called Mr. Annan's speech a "classic case of misdirection aimed at the United States."
U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Mr. Annan is entitled to his opinions. He said no secretary-general should be in total agreement with the United States or any other country on its policies.