In China Annan continues pressing for full mobilization against AIDS

In his meeting in Beijing with Vice-President Hu Jintao, the Secretary-General discussed the UN development goals, saying that international cooperation in areas ranging from terrorism to economic development was more important than ever after the 11 September 2001 terror attacks. “We can’t afford another failed state like Afghanistan,” Mr. Annan said, referring to the period when world inattention towards Afghanistan allowed it to become a bastion for organized terror. The Secretary-General also pledged to work with China on human rights issues, and repeated his earlier message that all levels of society must be involved in the fight against AIDS. “We must remove the stigma” of the disease, he stressed. In reply, Vice-President Hu said that AIDS is a public health menace for all mankind and that China is paying close attention to its prevention and control, with all society needing to be engaged in the fight, according to UN spokesperson Hua Jiang. The Secretary-General said he was heartened by that attitude. Mr. Annan then met with the most active leaders in the fight against AIDS in China, including Health Minister Dr. Zhang Wenkang and Professor Zeng Yi, President of the China Foundation for AIDS Prevention and Control. “We need all hands on deck,” he told them. In the late afternoon, the Secretary-General met with Vice Premier Qian Qichen, who also said that AIDS deserves the attention of all governments, adding that China takes the issue very seriously and has mobilized its medical sector to join in the search for a cure. The Secretary-General then described the meeting he had just had on the epidemic and his efforts to prod the major drug firms to lower their prices for AIDS medications in poor countries, Ms. Jiang said. The two officials also discussed Iraq and the Security Council’s efforts to agree on a formula for the return of weapons inspectors. Their substantive talks continued at a subsequent dinner in the Secretary-General’s honour hosted by the Vice Premier. Meanwhile, the Secretary-General’s wife, Nane, spent part of the day at a Beijing primary school, where she met with some 200 students as well as officials from China’s main children’s books publisher, Ms. Jiang said. Students of the Jing Shan Primary School presented their main concerns to Mrs. Annan, including an end to war, the protection of the environment, and education for all girls and boys. They also appealed for more attention to the growing global problem of AIDS orphans. In return, she showed slides of the UN’s development work and praised the students for their deep compassion and commitment. read more

Argentine community awaits Copa Libertadores final in Madrid

Madrid-based fan groups of Boca Juniors and River Plate are preparing for the Copa Libertadores final in the city that is home to one of the largest Argentine populations outside of Argentina.Meetings are underway to mobilize Argentines from across Spain and other European countries for the second leg of the twice-postponed final on Dec. 9 at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.Madrid was given the second leg between the Argentine archrivals on Thursday after fan violence caused the match scheduled for last weekend to be put off twice.River Plate fans attacked the Boca Juniors team bus with rocks, bottles, and wood en route to River’s stadium in Buenos Aires on Saturday and injured several Boca players.River Plate was still trying to appeal against CONMEBOL’s decision to move the match to Spain for security reasons, but it was unlikely to succeed.Having the final in Madrid has prompted mixed feelings for some local fans of Boca and River.“We all wanted this match to be played back in our stadium in Buenos Aires,” said Fabio Vides, a member of a River Plate fan group in Madrid. “It’s not going to be the same here. It’s like playing a Champions League final in a Latin American country.”Added River fan Circe Sanabria: “Think about the 70,000 fans who waited for hours inside the stadium in Buenos Aires and couldn’t watch the match. The trophy of the Copa Libertadores shouldn’t be handed to a champion in Europe.”Many in Argentina and other South America countries said it didn’t make sense to transfer to Spain the final of a tournament named after the men who helped free the American continent from European colonizers.The Spanish government was already making security plans to guarantee spectators’ safety in Madrid. Argentine laws to curb violence meant no opposing fans are allowed in football stadiums, but CONMEBOL said Boca Juniors fans would be allowed at the Bernabeu, where River Plate was the host team.It remained unclear, though, when tickets would be put on sale and who would have access to them.“That’s the main question right now,” River Plate fan Gustavo Garcia-Mansilla said. “We are just nine days away from this match. It’s not going to be easy to get a hold of one of these tickets.”The Bernabeu holds 10,000 more people than River’s stadium.More than 250,000 Argentines are believed to live in Spain, with nearly 20,000 in Madrid alone, according to the Spanish government.During the first leg of the final on Nov. 11, which ended 2-2, nearly 1,000 supporters from both teams gathered across Madrid to watch Argentina’s biggest home match since the 1978 World Cup final. Some River Plate fans marched through some of Madrid’s iconic sites, carrying flags and banners and chanting team songs.Garcia-Mansilla, an Argentine who has lived in Madrid for nearly two decades, was glad the final was in his adopted hometown.“This is like a miracle,” he said. “There will be a Boca-River match, in the final of the Copa Libertadores, in the city where I live. Not even in my wildest dreams I could have imagined this would happen. This final is a rare as Halley’s Comet, and they are bringing it to my city.”___More AP soccer: and Azzoni on Twitter: Azzoni, The Associated Press read more