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UN Secretary-General Describes Grim World As 73rd General Assembly Begins

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres addresses the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York on September 25.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres addresses the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York on September 25.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has opened the weeklong 73rd General Assembly by warning that the world is "suffering from a bad case of trust deficit disorder."

"People are feeling troubled and insecure and trust is at a breaking point -- trust in national institutions, trust among states, trust in the rules-based world order," Guterres said on September 25 in his opening speech to the UN General Assembly.

"Within countries, people are losing faith in political establishments," Guterres said. "Polarization is on the rise and populism is on the march. Among countries, cooperation is less certain and more difficult and divisions in our Security Council are stark."

Urging world leaders to counteract unilateralism and rejuvenate international cooperation, Guterres sounded an alarm on issues ranging from global climate change, a growing potential for nuclear conflict, the need for all people to benefit from new technologies, and the necessity to safeguard against dangers ranging from "malicious acts in cyberspace to the weaponization of artificial intelligence."

"Today, world order is increasingly chaotic," Guterres warned. "Power relations are less clear and universal values are being eroded. Democratic principles are under siege and the rule of law is being undermined."

Guterres's grim depiction of the state of the world was the first of many speeches scheduled during the General Assembly session, which runs through October 1.

On September 25 alone, the leaders of 32 UN member states, including U.S. President Donald Trump, are scheduled to address the session.

U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley said ahead of Trump's speech that he would continue to enunciate an "America First" foreign policy, talking about "protecting U.S. sovereignty" when he addresses the assembly shortly after Guterres.

"It is not saying multilateralism can't work," Haley said last week. "It's saying sovereignty is a priority over all of that, and we always have to make sure we're doing that -- and there are many countries that agree with us."

Harsh language was expected from Trump about the threat that he says Iran poses to Israel, the Middle East, and the world.

Haley said Trump also planned to address "the fact that we had to take on the Russian incident" in which former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter were poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok in the English city of Salisbury in March.

Haley was not more specific on what Trump would say about the Skripal case, which the West has blamed on Russia. Moscow denies the allegations that the poisoning was carried out by Russian agents.

Iranian President Hassan Rohani is due to speak later on September 25.

Iranian officials say Rohani's speech will stress that Tehran is continuing to uphold its commitments under the nuclear deal and that he will criticize the United States for breaking its international obligations under the treaty.

Hours before the session was set to begin, Trump tweeted that he had no plans to meet with Rohani on the sidelines of the gathering "despite requests" to do so.

Rohani said earlier that as a precondition for any dialogue, Trump must repair the damage done when he unilaterally withdrew the United States from Iran's 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

"That bridge must be rebuilt," Rohani told the U.S.-based NBC news ahead of his speech.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's speech on September 25 is expected to focus mainly on the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Syria's northwestern province of Idlib.

Erdogan also was expected to call on the international community to share responsibility for the refugee crisis and other challenges posed by conflicts in the region.

Also due to address the General Assembly on September 25 are Kyrgyz President Sooranbai Jeenbekov; Bakir Izetbegovic, the chairman of Bosnia-Herzegovina's tripartite presidency; and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, and dpa