UNITED NATIONS // Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Minister of Foreign Affairs, today called for an overhaul of global financial systems and warned of the repercussions of the Wall Street crisis during a speech before the United Nations. Addressing the UN General Assembly on the fifth day of speeches in New York, Sheikh Abdullah told delegates that world markets need more regulatory rules to offset the danger of future crashes. "While we express our concern at the repercussions of the financial crisis in the international markets, we affirm that this issue requires an urgent international joint mechanism that contributes to the establishment of well enforced and transparent rules for regulating the international financial markets," Sheikh Abdullah told delegates today. The minister's comments follow remarks from the French President Nicholas Sarkozy and other statesmen, who complained that poor regulation in US financial markets is the likely cause of what some forecasters predict will be the worst recession in a generation.
On domestic policy, Sheikh Abdullah told delegates the UAE was making headway on improving the lot of women and migrant labourers as well as addressing environmental issues. Women are playing a bigger role in the country's "executive and legislative bodies" as well as the "labour market", said the minister, while people with special needs are also benefiting from welfare improvements. "We are also developing legislation to regulate the organisation of the recruitment of labour from overseas and to ensure that the full rights of the labour force are safeguarded," the minister told delegates during an overcast and blustery afternoon in midtown Manhattan. Wearing a black, designer suit and blue tie, the minister addressed delegates to the 192-member body in Arabic at the end of a week that saw George W Bush and his Iranian counterpart, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, take the podium. Sheikh Abdullah lauded the creation of "the first carbon-free city in the world", Abu Dhabi's Masdar City, which will be "completely dependent on renewable and clean technologies, such as solar energy, which will be used for power generation and the desalination of water", he said. On international affairs, the minister addressed the growing tensions between the Emirates and Iran, calling on Tehran to cooperate with International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors and "dispel concerns and suspicions related to the nature and objectives of its nuclear programme". "The continuation, since 1971, of Iran's occupation of the three UAE islands of Abu Musa and Greater and Lesser Tunb is an issue of central importance for us," the minister said. "These islands and their surrounding waters and air space, are integral parts of our national sovereignty and patrimony. "We reiterate that all actions, whether military or administrative, undertaken by Iran with regards to these three islands since their occupation are void, illegitimate, in breach of the United Nations Charter and of the provisions of international law and the principles of good neighbourliness." Saudi Arabia's minister of foreign affairs, Prince Saud Al Faisal, backed the Government's claim to the Gulf islands, presenting a document to the assembly expressing the "hope that Iran will respond rapidly and favourably to" UAE requests. In his speech, Sheikh Abdullah also called for the UN to speed the pace of reform and allow smaller countries to wield greater influence within the world body. Critics say that the UN is dominated by the permanent five, veto-wielding members of the Security Council ? Britain, France, Russia, China and the US ? arguing that this represents the balance of world power at the end of the second world war. "The United Arab Emirates urges the Permanent Members of the Security Council to show the necessary flexibility and goodwill to permit an agreement to be reached on the increasing of the number of permanent and non-permanent members of the Council, in such a way as to implement the principle of equality between sovereign states and to address the issue of the under-representation of small and developing countries in this vital organ of the UN," he said. During his speech yesterday, Egypt's minister of foreign affairs, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, raised concerns over the "security of the Arab Gulf" during his speech before the UN General Assembly this morning. "The security of the Arab Gulf, which is currently in the spotlight, is one of Egypt's principal concerns, not only for Egypt's close relations with the GCC countries, but also for what Egypt represents in strategic depth for its Arab brothers." Although the minister did not refer to it by name, he was likely referring to the ascendance in regional importance of Iran, which is allegedly embarking on a nuclear weapons programme. "We would like to affirm that Egypt is working in co-ordination with members of the GCC with a view to protecting Arab national security and to guarantee that any such arrangements, if they come into existence, represent a true guarantee to the security of all parties." firstname.lastname@example.org