Havel meets with world leaders at UN summit

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The eyes of the world are on the UN Millenium Summit in New York, where the largest gathering of world leaders ever is discussing global issues such as the de-militarization of outer space, peace-keeping operations and programmes to fight poverty, disease and environmental destruction into the 21st century. While the session is debating these matters on a global level, numerous bilateral negotiations are taking place on the fringes of the summit, with respect to ongoing controversies and questions of dispute. Czech President Vaclav Havel, whose moral authority on an international scale makes him an excellent ambassador for the Czech Republic, had a busy 'fringe-agenda' on the first day of the summit. Daniela Lazarova sums up the story:

The Czech president, who is known to hold strong views regarding the need to curb aggressors, combat terrorism, accentuate business ethics and achieve greater harmony with nature, said he found this meeting of world leaders "immensely useful", since these vital issues for the future of mankind do not generally get enough attention.

On a more personal level, it gave the Czech president the unique opportunity of meeting with US President Bill Clinton, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, all in the course of one day. It enabled him to get a first-hand response on the state of the Middle East peace process from Izraeli Premier Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Jasir Arafat.

Closer to home, it also gave him the opportunity for a tete-a-tete with Austrian President Thomas Klestil about the ongoing war of words over nuclear power that the two neighbours are engaged in. Most of what was said will remain private, but the Czech president's spokesman did reveal that the two heads of state felt that nuclear experts should have a greater say in the matter--at present their voices are drowned out in the clamour raised by politicians and the public.

Another matter which President Havel devoted time to is the state of preparations for the upcoming IMF and World Bank summit in Prague. FBI chief Louis Freeh traveled to New York specifically to discuss the matter with President Havel. Although many Praguers feel that the Czech Interior Ministry is "overestimating" the possible problems, the FBI chief is allegedly satisfied with the way things are going.

The Czech president himself is not standing on the sidelines; he will host a meeting at Prague Castle between IMF and World Bank leaders on the one hand, and anti-globalization protesters on the other. Some three hundred people are expected to attend, and it is hoped that this face-to-face confrontation will take some of the tension off the streets. The meeting will be presided over by UN Human Rights commissioner Mary Robinson.