Nicaraguan priest sets tone for world leaders meeting at UN

World leaders meeting at the United Nations General Assembly starting Tuesday will most likely look to a humble Roman Catholic priest from Nicaragua for direction in solving their earthly problems.

That priest is Father Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann, a leftist clergyman and former foreign minister under the Sandinist government in Managua in the 1990s. Pope John Paul II had publicly scorned him for his leftist leanings when he visited Central America.

Elected president of the 63rd session of the 192-nation assembly in New York, d'Escoto Brockmann bluntly said he has not changed from the time he was a Sandinist. He still does not like the policies of the United States, he added.

All the former presidents of the assembly have been politicians, so a priest is an unusual choice. Incidentally, the UN dropped d'Escoto Brockmann's official title of father, even though he prefers to be called Father Miguel.

Dozens of heads of state and government, from US President George W Bush, France's President Nicholas Sarkozy to Bolivia's President Evo Morales, prime ministers like China's Wen Jiabao and foreign ministers from nearly every country will be at UN headquarters in New York for the annual session.

D'Escoto Brockmann has attacked Western dominance, which he believes to be the source of many of the world's problems. These are problems that can be solved in a spirit of global sisterhood and brotherhood, he said.

"It sounds like something from songs or poetry, but it is the only way out of a quagmire of insane selfishness," he told reporters. "We have a sick world. What is the name of that sickness? Selfishness."

He spoke in favour of the dispossessed of the world and against global institutions.

"I am aware of the great expectation which the vast majority of the dispossessed inhabitants of our threatened planet have placed in the UN to bring them peace, security and defend their right to life and full development," he said. "We must not fail them."

The International Monetary Fund and World Bank are "basically controlled by the United States and Europe ... and are used as instruments of domination," he said, adding that many countries resent the intrusion of those two Bretton Woods organizations, created after World War II to assist poor countries.

D'Escoto Brockmann wants to democratise the UN and intends to hold at least three official assembly meetings to end the perceived monopoly of Western nations over the world body. This includes getting rid of the veto power of the US, Russia, China, France and Britain.

Strangely enough, ambassadors representing those powerful countries did not publicly protest the opinions of the 75-year-old clergyman-turned-diplomat, who was selected by Latin America and the Caribbean to hold the position that rotates annually among the world's five regions.

D'Escoto Brockmann was ordained in 1961 as a member of the Maryknoll Missionary Congregation. He returned to Nicaragua to join the Sandinista National Liberation Front in its struggle against the US-backed government in Managua, and was appointed foreign minister in 1979 when it overthrew the US-backed Samoza government.

He stepped down as foreign minister in 1990 with the end of the Sandinista regime, which was voted out of office in multi-party elections, dpa reported.

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