UNITED NATIONS — The General Assembly opened its 41st session Tuesday with the election of Foreign Minister Humayun Rashid Chowdhury of Bangladesh as president and his warning that the financial crisis facing the organization could cripple it "to a point beyond recovery."
Chowdhury, 58, addressing the General Assembly, endorsed a Western- and Soviet-backed proposal to install a budget watchdog committee to review spending items before their submission to the 159-nation General Assembly.
The committee was recommended by a group of 18 experts who also called for a 15% cut in U.N. personnel and other economy measures to accommodate a reduction of possibly as much as $100 million in this year's U.S. contribution to the budget.
The British- and American-educated Bangladeshi pledged his own efforts to carry out economy measures by speeding up General Assembly procedures to avoid costly overtime. His endeavor started badly, however, as the inaugural session got under way half an hour late, almost punctual by U.N. standards.
A three-day "mini-assembly" on Namibia--also known as South-West Africa--scheduled to begin today and to end Friday is now expected by U.N. officials to last at least until Saturday and possibly to continue into Sunday.
The General Assembly steering committee approved 142 agenda items to be taken up this session, most of them fixtures on the U.N. calendar for years.
Despite U.S. objections, two new items were included: a demand by the developing nations for a discussion of the Third World's foreign debt burden and a request by the Organization of African Unity for a debate on the U.S. bombing raid on Libya last April.
U.S. delegate Chester E. Morris Jr. said the debt issue should be assigned to the United Nations' specialized financial agencies, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
Robert M. Immerman, of the U.S. Mission, pointed out that the Libyan raid was extensively debated in the Security Council and warned colleagues that Washington may ask for the inclusion of an agenda item "focusing on the role of the Libyan government in aiding, abetting and perpetuating international terrorism."