Mr. President,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Let me start with saying how pleased I am to see a representative of my own country presiding over this session. It is the first time the Czech Republic has an honour to chair this supreme body of the United Nations and I am grateful to all who made this possible by supporting our aspirations. I wish you, Mr. President, every success in the performance of this important function - the function that was raised to such a high standard by your predecessor, Han Seung-soo of the Republic of Korea.

Mr. President,

Representing the Government which assumed its function this July, I would like to confirm the continuity of the Czech foreign policy with its emphasis on the Euro-Atlantic dimension but also with a truly global reach and strong involvement in multilateral cooperation. And 1 should also mention that the Government of the Czech Republic has set its active participation in the fight against terrorism and against proliferation of weapons of mass destruction as one of its top priorities.

This time a year ago the whole world was shocked by the horrific terrorist attacks on the United States of America of September 11th.. The appalling dimensions of these attacks revealed the nature of the new threats that the international community is currently facing. Our response must be firm. We must move from the policy of containment to the policy of active struggle against international terrorism. At the same time we need to discuss issues that may be the source or fertile ground for violent acts of a similar nature.

This November, Prague will host the Summit of North Atlantic Treaty Organization and EuroAtlantic Partnership Council. The Czech Republic will support NATO enlargement to include further countries from Central and Eastern Europe. At the same time we are aware of the importance of NATO and EU relations with the Russian Federation, Ukraine and the Mediterranean countries. We also anticipate that the Prague Summit will mark an important milestone in the history of the Alliance in connection with its transformation to meet the current security challenges such as international terrorism and other asymmetric threats. We are convinced that these steps will contribute to the strengthening of stability and security of the world as a whole.

Mr. President,

The Czech Republic is paying great attention to the problem of Iraq. We advocate the unconditional implementation of the relevant UN Security Council resolutions, including those concerning the renewal of arms inspections, disarmament, release of detained Kuwaiti citizens and return of confiscated Kuwaiti property. The current regime in Iraq, because of its efforts to develop and produce weapons of mass destruction and its failure to comply with the will of the international community, represents an enormous risk not only for the security and stability of the Middle East region, but for the international community as a whole. I can assure you, Mr. President, that the Czech Republic advocates peaceful solution of disputes in international relations. However, our nation has its tragic experience with never ending concessions to aggressive regimes. We must not forget that peace must be sometimes defended even by force. The Czech Republic considers the letter by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Iraq to UN Secretary General as a reaction to a firm stand and pressure of international community. This pressure on the Iraqi regime must continue until all Security Council requirements are met in full.

The Czech Republic also closely follows the developments in the Middle East. Let me recall that our preference here was always for peaceful and just settlement of the problem, in line with the resolutions of the UN Security Council No. 242, 338 and 1403. The only meaningful option is to continue negotiations with the objective of stabilizing the current situation as a step to achieving a complete and lasting peace in this region. The Czech Republic shares the vision of peaceful coexistence between Israel and independent and democratic Palestinian state, based on mutual trust and arrangements covering all the security concerns. In this regard, we welcome the promising results of the Quartet meeting earlier this week.

With regard to peace and security, we recently witnessed some encouraging progress in the solution of armed conflicts in Africa, namely in Angola, Sierra Leone, Liberia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and in other areas including the Balkans and Afghanistan. We welcome and support the positive changes. The Czech Republic is, for instance, devoting a long-term attention to relations with the states of South Eastern Europe and the stabilization efforts of the international community in the Balkans. This year the Czech Republic became a participant to the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe, which we regard as an important instrument for economic renewal and reconstruction of the region.

As for Afghanistan, we consider the peace, stability and democratization a key factor, both for the further peaceful development of the whole region and also in the wider international context of the fight against terrorism. The international community has to increase its efforts to stabilize the security situation and support the economic renewal of Afghanistan, including the breaking of its economy's dependence on the cultivation of opium.

Mr. President,

Important components of the UN agenda are represented by the area of disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The Czech Republic supports the process of the gradual reduction of nuclear arms and their destruction within a frame of the ongoing process of the implementation and achievement of universality of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and the coming into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. And similarly, the Czech Republic works for the achievement of universality and rigorous implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention, including the destruction of existing arsenals, and the strengthening of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention. We also wish to see the renewal of the activities of the Conference on Disarmament and the commencement of substantive talks on the Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty. We invite member states of the Conference to take decision concerning the enlargement of its membership.

Mr. President,

The Czech Republic supports steps to strengthen the authority and effectiveness of the United Nations. This includes the reform and enlargement of the UN Security Council, revitalization of the General Assembly, peace-keeping operation following the Brahimi Report, the efforts to transform the "culture of reaction" to a "culture of prevention", and changes in ECOSOC and its subsidiary bodies, among others as a response to the challenges posed by Millennium Declaration Goals and recent major UN conferences. One of the major challenges currently facing the international community is ensuring that all countries have a fair access to the benefits of globalization. Issues such as development assistance and cooperation, debt relief for highly indebted developing countries and non-discriminatory participation in a multilateral trade system, together with what we call "good governance", are key both for the further economic progress in many parts of the world and for preserving favourable living conditions for the next generations.

In this context, the Czech Republic welcomes the successful conclusion of Monterrey conference on Financing for Development earlier this year and the World Summit for Sustainable Development in Johannesburg just few weeks ago. The Summit reinforced the determination of international community to pursuit the goal of sustainable development and most importantly, laid stress on implementation, on time-bound goals and specific commitments, on responsibility and accountability. Let us now make sure that this core message from Johannesburg is not forgotten. And let us` hope that the Summit is followed by concrete actions at global, regional, national and local levels, including through initiatives such as the New Partnership for Africa s Development (NEPAD).

Mr. President,

The Czech Republic attaches great significance to the strengthening of international law and respect for human rights. We are determined to seek early finalization of a general UN convention on international terrorism. We also welcome the establishment of the International Criminal Court.

I believe that the Czech Republic will in the near future join the large group of parties to the Rome Statute.

The Czech Republic is conscious of the UN contribution in promoting the respect and protection of human rights. We advocate a consistent approach to the fulfillment of the accepted obligations, in particular in relation to the advancement of women and protection of rights of child including in situation of armed conflicts. We advocate prevention and gradual elimination of all forms of racism and discrimination, including that against members of ethnic or religious minorities, persons with disabilities or older persons, and the ban on torture and the death penalty. We are also paying paramount attention to the draft Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The Czech Republic will actively promote its approval by this session of the General Assembly.

Mr. President,

This session of the UN General Assembly will be remembered, inter alia, for the admission of two new members - Switzerland and East Timor. 1 welcome them most cordially to the UN family. Their entry to the UN is a further step towards completing the universality of the UN membership, the achievement of which the Czech Republic unambiguously supports, and yet another proof of vitality of our Organization.

I could stop here, Mr. President. But before I finish, allow me to take advantage of this prestigious occasion to raise two issues. First, I would like to reiterate the continued interest of the Czech Republic in supporting the activities of the United Nations Information Center in Prague, which was last year sheltered in new premises, the so-called Prague UN House, seating representative bodies also of other organizations of the United Nations system. And finally, I wish to warmly thank, on behalf of the people of the Czech Republic, to all who generously provided humanitarian and other assistance to my country after it was struck by devastating floods last August. At this critical time we have seen an enormous wave of international solidarity - and the flooding thus contributed to a coming together between ourselves, our neighbors and the rest of the world.

Mr. President, esteemed colleagues, thank you for your attention.