UNITED NATIONS - The UN General Assembly granted a request from North Korea and held a few moments of silence Thursday for Kim Jong-il, the country's former leader who died Saturday, though Western delegations boycotted it.
Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, president of the 193-nation assembly, called for a "minute of silence" before the start of a routine meeting at 3:00 p.m. EST in the half-empty UN General Assembly hall.
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"It is my sad duty to pay tribute to the memory of the late Kim Jong-il, Secretary-General of the Workers Party of Korea, Chairman of the National Defense Commission of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and Supreme Commander of the Korean People's Army, who passed away on Saturday, Dec. 17," he said.
The minute of silence lasted for 25 seconds before Nasser proceeded with
the scheduled meeting. The United States, European Union member states
and Japan were among the countries that boycotted the tribute to Kim
North Korea's UN mission made a similar request to the Security Council, but Western diplomats said it was rejected.
"We didn't think it would be appropriate," a diplomat told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
Several Western diplomats said Pyongyang's request for Kim to be honored
was highly unusual. They voiced surprise that Nassir had granted it and
added that their delegations would most likely boycott the moment of
silence in the assembly.
Speaking at a news conference, Nasser cited "protocol" as the reason for
agreeing to the request from North Korea, a full UN member. One
diplomat said the reason for granting the request was probably because
Kim was an acting head of state.
Pyongyang is under Security Council sanctions due to Kim Jong-il's
nuclear weapons program, which Western officials say ate up huge sums of
money that could have been used to help feed North Korea's starving
An official at the Czech Republic's UN mission said the Czechs did not
request a similar moment of silence for Vaclav Havel, the
playwright-turned-dissident who died Sunday.
The former Czech president was the leader of Czechoslovakia's 1989
"Velvet Revolution," in which he oversaw the peaceful transition from
communism to democracy.