The Latest: UN chief: terrorist threat is ‘unprecedented’

September 26, 2019 GMT
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Guatemala's President Jimmy Morales addresses the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019, at the United Nations headquarters. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
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Guatemala's President Jimmy Morales addresses the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019, at the United Nations headquarters. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The Latest on the U.N. General Assembly’s annual gathering of world leaders (all times local):

9:30 p.m.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is warning that the world is facing “an unprecedented threat from intolerance, violent extremism and terrorism” that affects every country, exacerbating conflicts and destabilizing entire regions.

The U.N. chief said “the new frontier is cyber-terrorism — the use of social media and the dark web to coordinate attacks, spread propaganda and recruit new followers.”

Guterres spoke at a Security Council ministerial meeting Wednesday organized by Russia on cooperation between the U.N. and three Eurasian organizations in countering terrorism.


He stressed that the response to the “unprecedented” terrorist threat “must complement security measures with prevention efforts that identify and address root causes, while always respecting human rights.”

The U.S. and its Western allies stressed the importance of respecting human rights in counter-terrorism operations


9:10 p.m.

Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa is appealing for patience for his efforts to pull his country out of an economic collapse, and called on the U.S. and Europe to lift “illegal sanctions” that he blamed for hindering recovery.

Mnangagwa made no mention during an address to the U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday of alleged political repression under his rule, which has diminishes hopes that Zimbabwe might be on the brink of change following the 2017 ouster of longtime leader Robert Mugabe, who died in Singapore earlier this month.

More than 50 government critics and activists have been abducted in Zimbabwe this year, at times tortured and warned by suspected state security agents to back off from anti-government actions.

Critics have accused Mnangagwe of resorting to strong-armed tactics as opposition to his government grows amid crippling inflation, debilitating water shortages and chronic power cuts.


6:45 p.m.

Libya’s Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj has ruled out peace talks with the leader of his country’s rival government, describing him as a “war criminal.”

Sarraj used much of his time before the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday to deride Khalifa Hifter and his supporters as “coup plotters” and blame them for Libya’s continued instability.

Sarraj said Hifter was “not a partner for peace.”

Libya was thrown into chaos during the 2011 Arab Spring uprising. The rebellion led to the overthrow of longtime autocrat Moammar Gadhafi, and Libya has been split between two governments virtually ever since, each backed by rival Arab states.


The lack of security has made Libya’s shores a transit point for migrants seeking refuge in Europe. Libya has been criticized for its treatment of those migrants.

Sarraj hit back on that, saying Libya is a victim of migration, not the cause of migration.


5:45 p.m.

Guatemala’s president isn’t letting up on lambasting a U.N. anti-corruption commission, even though it disbanded this month after he refused to extend its mandate.

Jimmy Morales devoted nearly half his U.N. General Assembly speech Wednesday to the now-gone commission. It was known as CICIG for its initials in Spanish.

Morales said it infringed on Guatemala’s sovereignty and jeopardized “social peace.” He called for an investigation into it and a detailed report on its spending.

A message requesting comment was sent to a U.N. spokesman.

Over 12 years, the commission helped prosecute hundreds of people. Among them were Morales’ son and brother, who were exonerated by a court.

The commission also tried to bring a campaign-finance-related case against Morales, who denied wrongdoing. He was protected from prosecution as a sitting president.


2:35 p.m.

President Donald Trump says he placed “no pressure” on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate Democratic political rival Joe Biden.

Trump commented Wednesday during a meeting in New York with Zelenskiy on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly meeting of world leaders.

Asked about their July telephone call, Zelenskiy said it was a “good phone call” and “normal” and that he and Trump discussed “many things.”

Zelenskiy adds: “Nobody pushed me.”

A rough transcript summarizing the call that the White House released Wednesday shows Trump repeatedly prodded Zelenskiy to work with the U.S. attorney general and Trump’s personal attorney to investigate Biden, a former U.S. vice president.

The call is the subject of a whistleblower complaint against Trump and the basis for Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to open an impeachment inquiry.


2:10 p.m.

Colombia’s president is blasting Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro as a dictator who offers a safe haven for terrorist groups.

In his speech at the U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday, Ivan Duque said he has proof Maduro is harboring criminals plotting against Colombia. He vowed to deliver a 128-page dossier to U.N. leaders outlining the evidence.

Duque said the document includes information on 207 locations inside Venezuela that are controlled by ELN guerrillas. He described the neighboring Andean nation as “fertile land” for the ELN to expand.

Maduro has denied supporting criminal organizations and accuses Duque of similarly allowing illegal armed groups to flourish.

A group of Western Hemisphere nations agreed to invoke the 1947 Rio Treaty providing a legal framework for more sanctions against Maduro on Monday.


1:40 p.m.

The World Health Organization chief says the second-deadliest Ebola outbreak in history is “on the retreat,” but he warns that any attack by the many armed groups in eastern Congo could affect health workers’ hard-won gains.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters at the U.N. headquarters Wednesday that it’s not a good idea to predict an end to the outbreak that has killed nearly 2,000 people since August of last year.

He also refused to elaborate on the U.N. agency’s unusual weekend statement raising questions about whether neighboring Tanzania had covered up possible Ebola cases. He notes that “we have to strengthen our preparedness in neighboring countries.”

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar calls this the most complex Ebola outbreak in history and says stopping it is one of the top priorities for President Donald Trump.


1:15 p.m.

President Donald Trump has announced the “first stage of a phenomenal new trade agreement” with Japan.

It’s not immediately clear from Trump’s comments on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly what that “first stage” includes.

But Washington and Japan — which is the world’s third largest economy — have been in long, sometimes contentious negotiations on a trade deal.

There’s reportedly been considerable behind-the-scenes wrangling because of Japan’s concern about the possibility of future U.S. tariffs on Japanese auto exports.

Trump says Japan will open new markets to approximately $7 billion in U.S. agriculture products, including beef, pork, wheat, cheese, corn, wine and more.


11:35 a.m.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is warning that a “single blunder” in his region could “fuel a big fire.”

In a bleak speech Wednesday, Rouhani warned that with tensions high and conflicts flaring, the region was “on the edge of collapse.”

Rouhani said that the United States had failed to solve conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria and wasn’t capable of playing a role in calming tensions and bringing peace to the region now.

The Iranian leader was speaking at the United Nations General Assembly gathering in New York.


11:20 a.m.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is accusing the United States of “merciless economic terrorism” and “international piracy.”

Tensions are running particularly high between Iran and the United States since President Donald Trump’s decision last year to withdraw the U.S. from Iran’s nuclear agreement with world powers. Trump has since re-imposed and expanded sanctions on Iran, targeting its oil exports and crippling its economy.

Rouhani told the United Nations General Assembly gathering Wednesday that Iran would not negotiate on the nuclear issue as long as sanctions remain in place.

He said Iran has “resisted the most merciless economic terrorism.”


10:50 a.m.

Ministers from the five powers that support the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement and the Iranian government say they are striving to preserve it — and have underlined the importance of all sides implementing the deal.

The ministers said the agreement remains a key element “of global nuclear non-proliferation.”

European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini read the brief statement on behalf of the ministers from Russia, China, Britain France, Germany and Iran after they held a closed-door meeting Wednesday morning.

Asked whether the agreement can be preserved, Mogherini said, “I won’t hide it that it’s increasingly difficult to do that, and we discussed today that.”

Mogherini said she believes Iran’s actions to break the deal’s nuclear-related limits “are reversible.” Iran is seeking to pressure Europe to offer it a way to sell its crude oil despite U.S. sanctions.


10:45 a.m.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun is appealing to world leaders to work on the safe return of refugees to Syria.

He says the presence of hundreds of thousands of refugees in tiny Lebanon has exacerbated the country’s worsening economic crisis. He says their safe return is a joint international responsibility that should be dealt with urgently.

He added in his speech before the U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday that more than 250,000 refugees have returned to Syria from Lebanon “and there has been no information about anyone being persecuted or mistreated.”

He says Lebanon will continue to encourage the “voluntary” return of refugees in coordination with the Syrian government.


10:30 a.m.

Iraqi President Barham Saleh says he will not let his country become a battlefield for other countries’ conflicts to play out.

Iraq is squeezed between the two powerful rivals in the region, Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Some have questioned whether attacks earlier this month on Saudi Arabian oil installations could have been launched from Iraq. Iraq has denied that.

Saleh told the United Nations General Assembly gathering Wednesday: “Iraq will not be a launching pad for aggression against any of our neighboring countries.”

He called the attacks in Saudi Arabia a dangerous development.

Saleh bemoaned that Iraq has long been unstable but struck a positive note, saying his country was emerging from years of conflict and looking toward economic development.


9:30 a.m.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy made no mention of the American scandal swirling around him in his first-ever address before the U.N. General Assembly, choosing instead to focus on the horrors of war and his country’s ongoing conflict with Russia.

His speech Wednesday came less than day after a formal U.S. House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump was launched, a development that was sparked partly by a July 25 phone call between Trump and Zelenskiy.

At issue is whether Trump abused his presidential powers and sought help from Ukraine to undermine Democratic foe Joe Biden and help his own re-election.


8:40 a.m.

The man at the center of America’s latest political storm kicks off the second day of speeches Wednesday at this year’s gathering of world leaders.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s first-ever address before the world body comes a mere few hours after a formal U.S. House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump was launched — a development that was sparked partly by a July 25 phone call between Trump and Zelenskiy.

At issue is whether Trump abused his presidential powers and sought help from Ukraine to undermine Democratic foe Joe Biden and help his own re-election.

In the days before the call, Trump ordered advisers to freeze $400 million in military aid for Ukraine, prompting speculation that he was holding up the money as leverage for information on the Bidens.

Trump has denied that charge but acknowledged he blocked the funds.


12:10 a.m.

With tensions high in the Persian Gulf, all eyes will be on Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on as he speaks on the second day of the U.N. General Assembly’s annual gathering of world leaders.

In another highly anticipated speech, Ukraine’s freshly minted president will address the group for the first time as a fast-escalating scandal involving U.S. President Donald Trump swirls around him.

Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s speech comes just a day after U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi launched a formal impeachment inquiry against Trump, focused partly on whether Trump abused his presidential powers and sought help from Ukraine to undermine Democratic foe Joe Biden and help his own re-election.

Many of the world’s leaders have used their speeches so far to defend the multilateralism embodied by the United Nations.