Mr. President, Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

At the outset, let me congratulate you, Mr. President, on your election. Your vast political experience and diplomatic ability guarantee the successful discharge of your duties - in the name of the United Nations' cause and for the prestige of the friendly Czech Republic.

Mr. President,

The events of the last year do not allow us to treat this session as merely routine. Political declarations should be put aside to focus our attention on achieving concrete results. This session should address the unfinished tasks of the Millennium Declaration and the new challenges to international peace and security, the fight against terrorism in the first place. The session should contribute to solving the persistent problems of underdevelopment, poverty and wide spread diseases.

Unfortunately the agenda of the General Assembly is still dominated by regional crises and conflicts all over the world. Bulgaria has been following the situation in the Middle East with particular attention and supports the efforts to find fair and lasting solutions to the problem. We share the view that progress could be achieved only on the basis of dialogue and cooperation between the parties concerned and the active engagement of the Quartet in the peace process. The situation in Afghanistan is still volatile. The Afghan government needs comprehensive support to enhance internal stability and security, as well as to rebuild the country. Therefore, Bulgaria suggested the foreign debt of Afghanistan to be relieved in order to stimulate economic development.

Iraq has been of a focus of attention of the United Nations for the past 12 years. The full implementation of Security Council resolutions concerning Iraq is of urgent importance. We expect Iraq to comply with these resolutions promptly and without any conditions. The Security Council should undertake actions in order to uphold its authority and credibility as the single international body responsible for the maintenance of world peace and security. Bulgaria will support all relevant decisions in this respect.

The Republic of Bulgaria has come to the Fifty-seventh session of the United Nations General Assembly with the added responsibility of a member of the Security Council. We are strongly committed to the principles of consensus building, constructive dialogue and transparency in the work of the Council. The fight against terrorism is a top international priority today. Yesterday's special meeting of the Security Council reaffirmed the validity of Resolution 1373 and commended the work of the Counter-Terrorism Committee. The President's statement, supported unanimously by the Council, reflects the political will for common action against terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. The fight against terrorism should not however lead to persecution on religious or ethnic grounds or infringe on human rights.

With its recent accession to the International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings and the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism, Bulgaria is now party to all universal conventions against terrorism. My country has also contributed to the international efforts in a tangible and practical way by sending a military contingent to Afghanistan.

Anti-terrorist efforts require serious rethinking of current approaches to cooperation. We are aware that terrorism is often linked to other security threats like organized crime, drug trafficking, corruption, money laundering, the illegal traffic of human beings and illegal arms trade. Bulgaria has initiated and actively participates in a number of bilateral and regional arrangements of cooperation on these issues. My country is increasingly effective as a firewall protecting Europe along one of the routes of drug trafficking. We have adopted one of the most stringent laws on export control over arms trade and have taken decisive steps to improve enforcement in all its aspects.

Mr. President,

Developments in South Eastern Europe remain dynamic. Yet, for the first time in recent years the tendency has been positive. I am optimistic that the legacy of conflicts and confrontation could be surmounted and stability, peace and security will be finally established in the region. This process should be continued and made irreversible. European and Euro-Atlantic integration are proven instruments for achieving these goals. All countries in South Eastern Europe share now the same perspective in this respect and this is the basis of my optimism. For Bulgaria, early membership in the European Union and NATO is a strategic priority enjoying wide public support.

A precise analysis of the region's opportunities in an environment of new global challenges is needed more than ever today. We have to overcome the conventional ethno-nationalistic approach to security and proceed promptly to regional co-operation in all directions. Rather than trying to resolve each crisis as it occurs, our endeavors should be directed towards early prevention of conflicts through strengthening democratic institutions and human rights protection and through economic development in the first place.

During the years of crisis and post-crisis management in South East Europe, Bulgaria has showed capacity to generate stability and security in the region. The number of our peacekeepers in Bosnia and Kosovo has been dramatically increased recently. Bulgaria has the will and capability to sustain and, if there is a need, expand its presence in these crisis response missions. Our successful model of ethno-political tolerance, the excellent relations we maintain with all our neighbors, our active participation in all for a regional dialogue and co-operation are a practical contribution to regional security and cooperation. Based on this record, Bulgaria has the well-grounded ambition to assume the presidency of the OSCE in 2004.

Mr. President,

The need for effective arms control measures remains urgent. The US-Russian agreement on strategic nuclear arms is a landmark in the history of disarmament negotiations. Bulgaria welcomes the ongoing security dialogue between them, as well as the establishment of a new framework of interrelation between NATO and the Russian Federation, which benefits the global political atmosphere.

We support the comprehensive and integrated approach of the United Nations to non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Further strengthening of the non-proliferation regime is imperative if we are to prevent the use of such weapons for terrorist purposes, for international blackmail and disturbing and threatening the world peace. Bulgaria will continue to promote the effective and strict implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention, as, well as the strengthening of the regime of implementation of the Biological Weapons Convention. The uncontrolled spread of small arms is another source of instability and terrorism. Therefore, we strongly support the UN program of Action in this field.

Mr. President,

International human rights protection should be undertaken in the spirit of justice and equality, in compliance with the UN Charter and principles of international law. The United Nations should be able to respond more quickly and effectively to serious human rights violations. Bulgaria therefore supports the ongoing reforms in the monitoring mechanisms of the Commission on Human Rights.

Bulgaria believes that the exercise of all human rights by persons belonging to minorities within a state is closely linked to the internal stability of that state. All individuals should enjoy their rights on the basis of non-discrimination and equality before the law. In this regard, we insist that the international community's efforts should be focused primarily on the implementation of existing standards.

Mr. President,

Decisions should be taken to make the United Nations more effective in fulfilling its numerous responsibilities. Bulgaria supports the reform measures initiated by Secretary General Kofi Annan. UN reform must continue to take into account new political and economic realities, and address in particular the specific issues of sustainable development. I emphasize this point because I am still under the influence of the Johannesburg World Summit where my country confirmed its strong support to efforts targeted at the eradication of poverty and achieving sustainable patterns of production and consumption, as well as providing decent healthcare and education to the Earth's population.

Mr. President,

This is just a brief outline of some of Bulgaria's priorities for this session. Let me assure you that we take a truly responsible approach to the work of the United Nations in its entirety and my delegation stands ready to participate in the discussions and the decision taking on all agenda items. Our world needs wisdom and resolution to meet the current challenges to international peace, security and sustainable development. The UN offers the best opportunity for tackling these challenges. Bulgaria is capable and willing to contribute to such efforts.

I thank you.