April 11, 2000

U.N. chief pitches democracy in Cuba

                   HAVANA (Reuters) -- U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has made a strong
                   pitch for democracy at the Group of 77 Third World summit, telling Cuban
                   President Fidel Castro that open democratic processes are vital for any nation.

                   During a speech at Havana University on Tuesday, the second day of the
                   five-day summit, Annan said, "A state that denies itself open democratic
                   processes and institutions will thereby impede the development and progress of
                   its people, denying them the chance to interact fully with the wider world."

                   The 73-year-old Castro, wearing his trademark military uniform, sat in the
                   audience of students and dignitaries.

                   Representatives of the world's developing countries are meeting in Cuba to call
                   for a greater share of the world's power and wealth.

                   By Monday, 122 member countries had sent delegations, as had 34 nonmember
                   countries and 35 international organizations.

                   While Annan didn't mention any country by name, Cuba has been a one-party
                   state led by Castro since a Communist revolution in 1959.

                   World poverty must be addressed, Annan says

                   Annan backed calls by G77 members for greater access to rich countries' markets
                   and for what they say would be a more just distribution of world income. He called
                   for changes to the U.N. Security Council and to the international financial system.

                   "I do not believe that the situation which exists between and within nations where
                   we have extreme wealth and extreme poverty side by side can be sustained in the
                   long term without our attempting to do something about it," Annan said.

                   Third World leaders say their goals include keeping rich nations from hijacking
                   the World Trade Organization (WTO), forging closer stands on reducing their
                   debt burden and ensuring that they benefit from information technology.

                   Annan praised Cuba in his speech for guaranteeing its 11 million people social
                   services despite a four-decade-old U.S. trade embargo.

                   "Notwithstanding the embargo, Cuba's achievements in social development are
                   impressive given the size of its gross domestic product per capita," Annan said.
                   "As the human development index of the United Nations makes clear year after
                   year, Cuba should be the envy of many other nations ostensibly far richer."

                   In a brief reply, Castro praised Annan for doing "the most difficult job in the
                   world," but added that the United Nations itself needed to be "more democratic"
                   and take more account of the views of poor countries.

                   'They will be asking for the democracy dividend'

                   The organization's chairman, Arthur Mbanefo of Nigeria, told a news conference
                   Monday that it would look for ways to expand the benefits of globalization to
                   poorer nations and to help them fit into the modern information-based society
                   despite problems such as power and telephone shortfalls that make Internet
                   connections difficult.

                   Mbanefo, his country's ambassador to the United Nations, also said, "We would
                   like to see a situation where some of this debt is canceled."

                   Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, who was voted into office last year
                   following 15 years of military rule, said creditor nations must understand that
                   people in fledgling democracies will demand that their new system delivers
                   concrete benefits.

                   "Sooner (rather) than later they will be asking for the democracy dividend, and
                   this is purely an improvement in the quality of their life," said the ruler of Africa's
                   most populous nation.

                   "If you're asking me to pay 35 percent of my per annum on servicing the debt,
                   how can I give Nigerians a democracy dividend?" he said.

                   Obasanjo said he hoped that rich nations would reward the progress made by
                   countries like his own, which he said was striving to provide competent and
                   democratic government with full respect for human rights.

                   There are signs that rich countries, which already have forgiven debt owed by
                   the very poorest, were beginning to see the wisdom of further cuts in the debt
                   burden, said Obasanjo, who said that unilateral debt moratoriums were