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Sunday, December 19, 2004

The New York Times > International > Annan, at U.S. Urging, Seeks Special U.N. Session to Mark Liberation of Nazi Death Camps

The New York Times > International > Annan, at U.S. Urging, Seeks Special U.N. Session to Mark Liberation of Nazi Death Camps: "Annan, at U.S. Urging, Seeks Special U.N. Session to Mark Liberation of Nazi Death Camps
By WARREN HOGE

Annan, at U.S. Urging, Seeks Special U.N. Session to Mark Liberation of Nazi Death Camps
By WARREN HOGE

UNITED NATIONS, Dec. 17 - Secretary General Kofi Annan has started a monthlong polling of the 191 member states of the United Nations seeking approval for a special session of the General Assembly in January to mark the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Nazi concentration camps.

The session was requested in a letter to Mr. Annan on Dec. 10 by the United States envoy, John C. Danforth, and supported by Canada, France, Hungary, Russia and the Netherlands, representing the 25-nation European Union.

In his letter to Mr. Annan, Mr. Danforth said, "We believe that it is important that the United Nations, an organization that rose out of the ashes of World War II and the Holocaust, mark this important occasion in a manner fitting its historical significance."

Mr. Annan began circulating the proposal on Tuesday, saying he favored the idea and asking that countries answer by Jan. 13 whether they concurred with it. A simple majority is needed for the plan to go forward.

Mr. Danforth recommended that the United Nations commemoration be held on Jan. 24, so as not to detract from ceremonies three days later at Auschwitz, the Nazi death camp in Poland that was liberated by Soviet troops on Jan. 27, 1945.

Representative Tom Lantos, a California Democrat and the only Holocaust survivor to be elected to the United States Congress, visited Mr. Annan on Monday to express his strong support for the move. He told reporters afterward that he found the secretary general "determined to do everything in his power to proceed with such a session."

The Hungarian-born Mr. Lantos served as a teenage messenger for Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who saved thousands of Jews from death. Mr. Wallenberg was the uncle of Mr. Annan's wife, Nane Annan.

Mr. Lantos also said he had heard that some Arab states were obstructing the proposal, but diplomats at the United Nations Secretariat and at the American and Israeli missions said they had heard no such objections. "At least publicly, we have seen no Arab government object yet," said a senior diplomat at the United States mission.

Anat Friedman, spokeswoman for the Israeli mission, said she knew of no actions to block approval, and she added that the Israeli foreign minister, Silvan Shalom, telephoned Mr. Annan on Friday to praise him for his actions to combat anti-Semitism.

"He knows he's going through a hard time, and he called to express his appreciation and trust in the secretary general," Ms. Friedman said.

Amy Goldstein, the director of United Nations affairs for B'nai B'rith International, said she felt that getting 75 nations to sign the letter would not be difficult but that obtaining the remaining needed signatures might be.

"The last 20 or so countries will not be easy for whatever political reasons," she said. "Erroneously, people link Jewish issues with the situation in the Middle East, which by the way is improving, only not at the U.N."

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