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September 28, 1998

United Nations General Assembly chairman, Didier Opertti, who is also foreign affairs minister of Uruguay, today called on Latin American and Caribbean countries to be more actively involved in the world body.

Speaking before a protocolary meeting of the Organization of American States (OAS) Permanent Council, Opertti said if the OAS could diagnose regional conflicts with a measure of certainty and get involved and find the solution to those conflicts, on its own or with UN assistance, it was because it had the political will to do so.

"Let us demonstrate that clear will, let us come up with proposals, let us make GRULAC (Latin American and Caribbean Group) an important group identified not only as one that elects candidates or affirms positions, but also one that is willing to actively participate in putting forward project proposals and present initiatives," he stated.

Drawing a comparison between the two institutions, the Uruguayan foreign minister noted that "perhaps no OAS organ carries weighted voting because the organization has a democratic make-up, which has historically made it stand out as the most egalitarian organization on earth."

On the role of the UN Security Council, the visiting dignitary said it was not only a question of adding to the number of members represented. "This is a challenge for a vast and complex organic institutional development, to which this region and this organization can no doubt contribute."

Among the other issues on which Mr. Opertti touched was member countries' quotas which, he noted, was being reviewed under the microscope. "More than two billion dollars are owed to the United Nations and some countries owe extraordinary amounts equivalent to half of the annual budget," he stated.

OAS Secretary General CÚsar Gaviria welcomed Mr. Opertti, describing him as a "front line leader in the most prominent diplomatic developments in our hemisphere over the last few decades."

Praising the Uruguayan minister's role in the development of the OAS, the secretary general observed that Minister Opertti was coming to the OAS at a time of change and transformation, "when we are re-doing our fifty year old institution to respond to the challenges of a new era in terms of globalization and integration, to which we are more committed than ever."

The protocolary meeting of the Permanent Council, attended by ambassadors of the 34 OAS member countries as well as by special guests, was chaired by Uruguay's ambassador, Antonio Mercader, who welcomed the visiting minister and his party.

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