An international poverty conference opened Monday with poor nations pressing for more aid and the U.N. chief warning that the meeting could run aground on indifference.
"The problem of the United Nations is to cope with . . . donor fatigue, conference fatigue," U.N. Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali said.
"Fatigue will provide something more dangerous, which is indifference," he said. "Our goal is to show . . . we are all of the same community. We must help each other."
In an emerging standoff between wealthy and poor countries, delegates at the 183-nation meeting argued behind closed doors over setting up a fund to help eradicate poverty.
A proposal for more aid to poor nations is among the most contentious--and one U.S. delegate said privately it would not be accepted. But a caucus of more than 130 developing countries indicated that it will fight for the funding.
The stalemate did not bode well for any agreement on action in the summit's final document, to be signed Sunday by nearly 120 leaders, including German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and U.S. Vice President Al Gore. President Clinton will not be attending.
The United Nations said success at the weeklong summit should be measured by the convergence of ideas, rather than hard commitments, as it tried to justify the meeting's $28-million cost.
Boutros-Ghali said that 1.3 billion people--more than one in four--live in poverty worldwide and that 1.5 billion do not have access to basic health care.
Among the debates, the message from the United Nations and wealthy countries was that poorer nations must take care of themselves.