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26 March 1996

Press Release


19960326 (Received from the Spokesman for the Secretary-General.)

BEIJING, 26 March -- Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali today conferred with Chinese leaders on the role of the United Nations in promoting social and economic development around the world.

On the third day of his five-day mission to China, the Secretary-General held meetings with President Jiang Zemin and Premier Li Peng. The discussions covered a wide range of topics from the bane of land-mines to the heavy debt burden carried by Africa. They also touched on Taiwan, province of China, and the status of talks on East Timor. The Secretary-General reiterated his gratitude to both leaders for the successful outcome of the Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing last September.

During the deliberations with President Jiang, the two leaders exchanged ideas on themes proposed for a conference commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).

The Commission was founded on 26 March 1947 in Shanghai as the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East (ECAFE). It changed its name to ESCAP in 1974 and is now headquartered in Bangkok.

The Secretary-General said a symposium focused on ESCAP was important because the vast majority of the Organization's work was in the field of social and economic development. He bemoaned the fact that most people associated the United Nations only with peace-keeping because of the high profile of those operations.

He said an ESCAP conclave would be the perfect complement to the series of conferences that began with the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro and will end with the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) in Istanbul this June. President Jiang said China would welcome such a conference.

The two leaders discussed the gravity of the United Nations financial crisis and President Jiang offered his sympathy, adding that the United

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Nations was the best international organization in the world. The United Nations, he said, provided a forum for discussion, communication and exchanges among States on world affairs and thus played an irreplaceable role in promoting peace and development.

President Jiang praised the Secretary-General's role in defusing and calming the complicated and often dangerous situations confronting the United Nations.

They recalled the President's visit to New York for the fiftieth anniversary and laughed about the pouring rain that marked the eve of the celebration. President Jiang said he was grateful that the Secretary-General had found such a perfect site for the Treasure Tripod, China's gift to the United Nations on the occasion.

In the discussions with both President Jiang and Premier Li Peng, the Secretary-General drew attention to the United Nations System-wide Initiative on Africa, launched 15 March and designed to inject $25 billion into Africa over the next decade, particulary in the fields of health and education. He noted the extremely important role China played in Africa and said he had rarely visited an African nation where the Chinese had not built roads, schools, hospitals and bridges.

President Jiang said China attached great importance to Africa. In addition to economic aid, he said, China now encouraged investment to promote economic and industrial development.

Premier Li Peng said that as a developing country, China sympathized with the developing nations of Africa and found it worrisome that unlike the progress being seen in Asia and Latin America, the Africans were seeing a widening of the North-South gap.

The Secretary-General noted that Africa was still suffering from the aftermath of the colonial era and the cold war, both of which had exacerbated the divisions caused by the multiplicity of languages and traditions. Premier Li Peng noted ramifications of Africa's heavy debt burden and the Secretary- General said he was working to find ways to ameliorate that debt burden.

On Wednesday, 27 March, the Secretary-General will address the United Nations Association of China on the unique role of the United Nations. He will also meet with representatives of various United Nations agencies in China and will hold a press conference.

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For information media. Not an official record.