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'UN spends too much time on itself,' Baird tells General Assembly

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird delivered a scathing rebuke Monday to the United Nations, taking to the podium at the General Assembly to scold the UN for its failures and inefficiencies.

The UN's failings are particularly evident in its inability to stop the bloodshed in Syria, said Baird, who spoke to a largely empty and seemingly disinterested chamber.

"The crisis in Syria is a test of this organization's ability to achieve results," he said.

"While the brutal and repressive regime of Bashar al-Assad continues the slaughter of its own people, the United Nations continues to fail to impose binding sanctions that would stem the crimson tide of this bloody assault."

The UN spends too much time in self-examination, he continued, and needs instead to focus on the problems around the world that demand its attention.

"Our commitment to the United Nations has been tested and is proven," he said.

"Not in spite of our commitment, but because of our commitment to this body, we cannot and will not participate in endless, fruitless inward-looking exercises."

Consequently, the Canadian mission to the UN will now focus its attention on what the United Nations is achieving, not how it arranges its affairs, Baird said. If the UN focuses instead on its true goals, such as prosperity, security and human dignity, internal reform will take care of itself, he added.

"The UN spends too much time on itself. It must now look outward."

Baird was speaking to the General Assembly on Canada's behalf after Prime Minister Stephen Harper travelled to New York last week not to address the UN, but to accept a world statesman award a few blocks away.

Baird has said that he and Harper have been in touch with their Russian counterparts about getting the UN Security Council involved in ending the violence in Syria.

Russia has faced criticism for thwarting efforts to halt the violence in Syria by using its veto at the Security Council to quash resolutions against the Assad regime.

But Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has insisted that it's the West standing in the way of concerted international action by failing to implement an earlier agreement on the conflict.

Canada has committed to provide $12 million to help Syrian civilians, many thousands of whom have flocked across Syria's borders to live as refugees in neighbouring countries.

It's estimated that as many as 700,000 could flee Syria by the end of this year.

Baird also took the time to point out to the UN that despite the ongoing bloodshed in Syria, Iran remains "the most significant threat" to peace and security around the world.

"A nuclear Iran would embolden an already reckless regime and perpetuate a destabilizing factor for not just an already fragile region but the entire planet," Baird said.

"While Canada prizes engagement and open relations, there can be no open engagement with a regime that dishonours its word, repudiates its commitments, and threatens to perpetuate crimes against humanity."

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