Mr. President,

It gives me great pleasure to convey to you as well as to your friendly country Saint-Lucia, our most sincere congratulations on your election as President of the 58th session of the General Assembly. I am confident that your ability and competence will guarantee the success of the proceedings of this session. I also would like to express to your predecessor Mr. Ian Kavan, our consideration for the remarkable manner with which he presided over the proceedings of the 57th session.

I also wish to extend to His Excellency Mr. Kofi Annan, secretary General of the United Nations our thanks and consideration for his tireless efforts to maintain the role of our Organization in order to enable it to attain its objectives with a view to achieving peace, security and development in the world.

Mr. President,

Since our last session, we witnessed a succession of developments which contributed to further deterioration of the situation in the world due to the lack of security and stability, the proliferation of crises and conflicts, the propagation of diseases and the increase in poverty and exclusion in many parts of the world. In the face of this situation, the international community is called upon to assume its responsibilities and move firmly to address this array of challenges through renewing the commitment of all to the Charter of the United Nations and to the noble principles enshrined therein, and to work together in the framework of an international consensus, to strengthen the role of our Organization in the maintenance of peace and security and to find solutions to pending international issues. We are convinced that this is the best way to lay the ground for a world governed by, principles of dialogue, cooperation and consensus.

Mr. President,

The new challenges facing the international community and the need to set up relations of justice, equity and balance command us to unite our efforts so that the United Nations Organization remain the framework for our common endeavours in order to preserve peace and security, and the embodiment of international legality that ail countriesmust be committed to and implement in a non-selective manner away from double standards.

These new challenges also require that the United Nations increases its efficiency and improve its working methods, taking into account the noble principles enshrined in the Charter, through the strengthening of its main organs particularly the Security Council which should regain its credibility in the maintenance of international peace and security as well as through the revitalization of the role of the General Assembly for the benefit of the causes of peace, security and development.

In this regard, and while sharing the call made by the Secretary General to speed up the introduction of necessary reforms within the Organization, we stress that Tunisia which participated in the past in the debate on these reforms, stands ready today to continue to contribute effectively in the international efforts aimed at achieving_ this objective which has become more imperative than ever.

Mr. President,

We are convinced that the deterioration of the situation in the world requires that the international community adopt a comprehensive and multidimensional approach based on the interdependence between peace and security on the one hand, and development on the other. We believe indeed that peace and security could not prevail worldwide unless the development needs of all peoples are addressed. We also recognize that development cannot be achieved in the absence of security and peace for all.

The implementation of such an approach requires that all members of the international community join efforts and show more solidarity in order to eliminate the root-causes of instability and to eradicate poverty and deprivation which constitute breeding grounds for trouble and tensions.

Since the change of November 7th 1987, Tunisia has called for the adoption of such an approach and presented at the regional and international levels numerous initiatives and proposals whose objective is to set the foundation for a world more capable of meeting the goals of peace and security and spreading the values of dialogue, tolerance and solidarity among all the peoples.

It is in this context that President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali called in 1989, from the rostrum of this august Assembly, for the conclusion of a pact for peace and progress, in the framework of the United Nations, associating the countries of the north and the south, a pact based on peace and justice and the strengthening of cooperation between all countries of the world.

Since then, all subsequent initiatives and proposals made by President Ben Ali showed a high degree of coherence with that call, as they stem from the determination of Tunisia and its President to ensure the effectiveness of our country's contribution in addressing the issues of peace, security and development, particularly in relation to the phenomenon of terrorism and the ways to combat it or to the implementation of mechanisms for conflict resolution in the Arab and African regions.

In line with the comprehensiveness of the Tunisian approach, President Ben Ali has consistently called the international community to help developing countries promote their economies, through a number of regional and international initiatives such as those related to debt relief, particularly debt recycling for middle income countries, the transfer of science and technology to developing countries to enable them to master the immense progress achieved by humanity in these fields and the call to convene a World Summit on Information Society. It is also worth mentioning President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali's call for the dissemination of the values of solidarity and compassion as a means to contribute to the eradication of poverty, marginalisation and exclusion in all parts of the world and which led to the establishment of the World Solidarity Fund.

Mr. President,

Tunisia who has succeeded in promoting a secure, stable and well balanced society, in phase with progress and open to modernity and who considers that the well-being of man is the ultimate objective of social and economic development, and on the basis of its own national experience, believes that the fight against extremism and terrorism which constitute a serious threat to the whole world cannot succeed unless it is comprehensive and of multidimensional nature and take into account not only the security dimension but also the need to address the root-causes behind this phenomenon.

We therefore underline the necessity to work towards developing an international common approach to fight the phenomenon of extremism and terrorism, taking into account all relevant international conventions.

In this context, and pending the achievement of the desired progress in the adoption of a comprehensive international mechanism to fight terrorism, we would like to reiterate Tunisia's call for the conclusion of a code of conduct to fight terrorism to which all countries would adhere and which will include the principles around which a consensus could be built and could constitute a common denominator in collectively confronting this phenomenon. An international conference could be convened to lay the ground for this code.

Mr. President,

The wide international support enjoyed by the proposal for the establishment of the World Solidarity Fund bears testimony to the need for such a mechanism which aims at reducing suffering, poverty, exclusion and marginalisation endured by a great number of peoples in the world, particularly in Africa.

While reiterating our most sincere thanks and gratitude to the member States for their support to this initiative, we remain convinced that since the Fund has been set up in February 2003 and has become one of the official mechanisms of the United Nations system, Member States will spare no effort in speeding up its operationalization, thus allowing it to start its activities as soon as possible and thus contribute to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

We therefore urge the international community and all relevant actors including State and private organizations to mobilise the necessary financial resources for the Fund allowing it to fulfil its noble humanitarian objectives. It is also very important in this regard to speed up the establishment of the high level Committee decided upon whose task is to define the strategy of the World Solidarity Fund and mobilize the resources necessary for
its activities.

Mr. President,

The widening digital gap between industrialized and developing countries requires that we take the necessary practical measures to enable all countries to take advantage of the broad perspectives provided by the technological revolution in the field of communications. It is within this context that Tunisia called for the convening of a World Summit on Information Society. We are now intensifying the preparation of the second phase of this Summit which will be held in Tunis in November 2005.

While expressing its determination to contribute effectively to the first phase which is due to be held in Geneva by the end of this year, Tunisia will do its utmost to ensure that the Tunis Summit will constitute an opportunity to promote a common approach in order to contribute to strengthening cooperation between all members of the international community and consolidate the role of the information and communication technologies in development. We are confident that member States which chose Tunisia to host the Summit will do their utmost to make it a success.

Mr. President,

Convinced of the role of sport in strengthening the bonds of friendship, cooperation and rapprochement between peoples and taking into account the importance of physical education as an instrument to consolidate the foundations of peace and the promotion of development in the world, Tunisia decided to present to the present session of the General Assembly a draft resolution proclaiming the year 2004, an international year of sports and physical education in the service of peace and development. We express the hope that this proposal which received the support of the African Union and the Organization of the Islamic Conference will get a wide support from the international community and other international sports bodies.

Mr. President,

The Middle-East is still suffering from the cycle of violence and tensions. The Roadmap that Tunisia has supported has revived the hope for the resumption of the peace process. However this hope was soon confronted with the insistence on the part of Israel to impose the reality of occupation and the continuous military campaigns against the 'Palestinian people, including the decision to expel President Yasser Arafat, despite the Palestinian Authority's readiness to fulfil its commitments in the framework of the roadmap.

In the face of the deteriorating situation, we believe that the international community and more particularly the members of the Quartet should not allow the will of peace to be defeated and should spare no effort in boosting the peace process.

While reiterating its attachment to the peace process and its determination to contribute effectively to its success, Tunisia stresses the necessity to respect the legitimacy of the Palestinian Authority and its leadership chosen freely by the Palestinian people. We are also of the view that given the continuing tragic conditions of the Palestinian people, it is high time to give effect to the call made by President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali during the Extraordinary Arab Summit held in Cairo in 2000 to provide the Palestinian people with an international protection, especially as this call was supported by many States.

Mr President,

The continuous suffering of the Iraqi people is a source of great concern and profound preoccupation for the international community. While remaining attached to the independence and territorial integrity of Iraq, we would like to emphasize the need for the international community to join hands and for the United Nations to assume its central role to ensure that peace and stability prevail in this brotherly country thus allowing reconstruction to start and the return of a normal life for the Iraqi people.

In this regard, Tunisia hopes that the adoption of the first steps which were welcomed by Security Council resolution 1500 would lead as soon as possible to the restoration of the sovereignty of the Iraqi people.

Furthermore and while condemning in the strongest terms the terrorist attack against the United Nations Headquarters in Baghdad, we pay tribute to the Secretary General who, despite the gravity of this painful attack, decided to let the United Nations pursue its efforts in
helping the Iraqi people overcome its present predicament.

Mr. President,

Tunisia attaches great importance to the various forms of integration and partnership within the regional groupings it belongs to. In this regard, we avail ourselves of this opportunity to express our deep satisfaction following the agreement reached between sisterly Libya on the one hand and the United States, Great Britain and France on the other, on the issues of Lockerbie and UTA, after the fulfilment by Tripoli of all its commitments under the relevant Security Council resolutions. We have no doubt that now that the sanctions have been completely lifted, Libya will fully resume its role in the Maghreb and Mediterranean regions thus contributing to reinvigorating the Arab Maghreb Union which will help promote more complementarity and integration between the countries of the region and will consolidate the foundations of security, stability and prosperity in the Maghreb, Arab, African and Mediterranean fora.

The settlement of this dispute augurs well as it coincides with the preparations Tunisia is undertaking to host the first summit of the dialogue 5+5 to be held in December 2003 between the countries of the Maghreb and the European countries west of the Mediterranean. We look forward to this event as a step towards enhancing partnership between the countries of the region and deepening the values of dialogue, tolerance and moderation among its peoples.

Convinced of the necessity to strengthen the common Arab action and to consolidate the role of the League of Arab States to enable it to attain its noble objectives, Tunisia shall endeavour during its presidency of the next Arab Summit in 2004 to further strengthen the bonds of cooperation, solidarity and complementarity among the Arab countries.

Mr. President,

The last African Summit held in Maputo in July 2003 marked the beginning of the launching process of the African Union. The African Union is determined to achieve the objective of promoting the African continent and to confront the serious challenges it faces. The Union hopes to get the necessary international support in order to achieve its goals.

The New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) bringing a new vision for an effective and constructive partnership with the United Nations, its specialized agencies as well as with the developed countries and other relevant institutions deserves the support of the international community. Such support constitutes an incentive to the endeavours of the African Union to meet the legitimate African needs and to address all aspects of marginalization of our continent.

Mr. President,

The difficult global economic environment has had a serious impact on the economies of the developing countries in general and the African economies in particular. Growing fierce trade competition and protectionist measures as well as currency fluctuations and the exacerbation of the debt burden constitute major constraints which have impeded the progress of the developing countries.

In this regard, we underline the need for all international partners to show the necessary political will to implement the commitments of the Millennium Development Goals as well as the outcomes of major UN conferences and summits notably the Conference on Financing for Development held in Monterrey and the World Summit on Sustainable Development held in Johannesburg, if we were to overcome this difficult situation and give a new impetus to development efforts.

Mr. President,

The difficult situation we are witnessing today should not discourage us or make us shy away from our determination to advance towards the objectives of peace, security and stability. We must show patience, determination and perseverance and pledge together to strengthen the United Nations and make this session a new starting point for our Organization in order to enable it to effectively play its role and respond to our collective aspirations for a more secure and stable world.

I thank you Mr. President.