UNITED NATIONS – The United Nations General Assembly on Monday unanimously elected Denmark's former parliament speaker Mogens Lykketoft as president of its 70th anniversary session where he said his top priorities will be to ensure that world leaders "join hands" to eradicate extreme poverty, keep climate change at bay, and promote economic growth.
Lykketoft, who will start his year-long presidency in September, said he also wants leaders gathering for the anniversary in late September to "focus on the road ahead for peace, security and human rights."
The current assembly president, Sam Kutesa of Uganda, announced Lykketoft's election by acclamation on Monday as diplomats from the U.N.'s 193 member states burst into applause.
Lykketoft, who was also applauded when he announced that he would turn 70 years old during the upcoming session, said his theme for his yearlong presidency will be: "The U.N. at 70, a new commitment to action."
While great progress has been made since the United Nations was founded in San Francisco in 1945, he said the world today is suffering from armed conflicts, terrorism, violent extremism, nuclear proliferation and an increasing risk of new tensions among major powers.
Lykketoft urged all countries and their leaders "to strive to build a more fair and stable world," stressing that "the 92 wealthiest dollar-billionaires own more than the poorest half of humanity."
The largely ceremonial but prestigious job of president rotates annually by region. Lykketoft was the unanimous choice of European and other Western nations.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said this anniversary year offers Lykketoft "an extraordinary opportunity to shape history."
The goals set by world leaders in 2000 to combat global poverty reach their target at the end of the year, Ban said, and world leaders will hold a special summit in September just before the annual General Assembly ministerial meeting to adopt new goals to further reduce poverty, promote economic development, and tackle the roots of climate change.
Lykketoft, who also served as Denmark's foreign minister and finance minister, is known as a skilled negotiator but has been criticized for lacking charisma. Danish media have portrayed him as a shrewdly calculating politician, an image he rejects.
Last year Israel criticized him for meeting Palestinian officials on a visit to the region but not Israeli officials. Lykketoft downplayed the spat, saying he didn't meet the Israelis because of scheduling conflicts.
Associated Press Writer Karl Ritter contributed to this report from Stockholm