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President to address UN General Assembly today

From Manjula Fernando in New York

President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga will address the 59th sessions of the United Nations General Assembly today.

She is among the first few world leaders to address the UNGA on the opening day. US President George W. Bush will also address the UNGA today.

Fifty six Heads of state, 24 Heads of Government and 89 Foreign Ministers are scheduled to attend the UNGA this year, making it the first meeting attended by the highest number of heads of state and government in the UN history.

The Sri Lankan delegation also comprises Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar and Tourism and Investment Promotion Minister Anura Bandaranaike. President Kumaratunga is due to hold bilateral meetings with several world leaders during her stay in New York. There is huge media interest in this year's UN sessions, with media personnel from all over the world converging on New York.

Meanwhile, the 59th UN General assembly's general debate will open tomorrow with 191 members lined up to express their views on a wide range of issues of international interest, ranging from ending armed conflicts, Iraq and Afghan issues to globalisation, poverty alleviation and fight against hunger. The President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga will be among the first speakers on the opening day of the debate which will be followed by opening remarks by UN General Secretary Koffi Annan and elected president of the General Assembly Foreign Minister of Gabon Jean Ping.

"I am satisfied that all 191 member states and 2 observers, Holy See and Palestine have registered to speak on the debate, showing their interest in active involvement, as I believe global challenges can only be resolved with everyone's participation, from smallest to the biggest countries," elected president Jean Ping said at a briefing at the UN headquarters recently.

He has proposed to revitalise the UNGA within the framework so that the General Assembly could be equipped to fulfilling its mandate to the fullest extent.

Brazil will be the first to take the floor, followed by US President George W. Bush. Sri Lankan President will be the seventh speaker on the morning session and her address is scheduled at 11.45 am local time (9.45 pm Sri Lanka time). The President is expected to express views on peace building and terrorism with the other speakers also expected to emphasise the issue of global terrorism.

The speakers to the debate include one crown prince, 64 heads of state, 25 heads of government, two Vice-Presidents, two deputy prime Ministers, 86 Foreign Ministers and one Deputy Foreign Minister.

President Kumaratunga arrived in New york on Sunday night (Sri Lanka time 6.00 am) was received by Acting Permanent Representative to the UN Bernard Goonetilleke and Sri Lankan Ambassador in Washington Devinda Subasinghe. She was escorted to the VIP hotel amidst tight security, by the US government secret service which will be in charge of her security throughout her stay here.

Kapruka

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