In a speech prepared for the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Annan also urged efforts to "rebuild our system of collective security and thus prevent the world from sliding back into brute competition based on the laws of the jungle." 

Annan did not mention the United States by name, but made frequent allusion to the US concentration on security issues that he said had diverted attention from critical areas such as poverty, health and education. 

"It is time to re-balance the international agenda," he told many of the world's political and business elite on the third day of their annual gathering in the Swiss ski resort.

Global Compact Summit

Annan said he would convene a Global Compact Summit at the world body's New York headquarters in June to broaden a "compact" launched here five years ago to involve businesses in issues ranging from AIDS awareness to corruption.

Some 1,200 companies from more than 70 countries are already involved but Annan said there was room for the corporate world to do more in furthering the Millennium Development Goals, setting 15-year targets in various sectors. 

"It is time to re-balance the international agenda"

Kofi Annan,
UN secretary-general

"The goals are central to our struggle for peace and human dignity. Yet in the past year or two, the war in Iraq and other
events caused our attention to drift dangerously away from them," the secretary general said.

He also complained of "dwindling investment in those parts of the developing world where it is most needed" and trade negotiations that have failed to end "egregious biases against developing countries."

Annan put a priority on eliminating agricultural subsidies in developed countries that he said skewed market forces, destroyed the environment and kept poor-nation exports from world markets.

"No single issue more gravely imperils the multilateral trading
system, from which you benefit so much," he told the executives.

"For all our sakes, and for the credibility of the system itself, they (subsidies) must be eliminated." 

Anti-World Economic Forum (WEF)
activists block a road at Zurich airport

Annan's appearance in Davos came at a pivotal moment for the United Nations, bypassed by the United States in the campaign to oust Saddam Hussein but now solicited by Washington for help in restoring Iraqi self-rule by July 1.

The UN chief said he would consider sending a team to Iraq to explore whether Shia demands for early direct elections were feasible. Forum organisers said they were hoping for an announcement in Davos. 

Annan's speech reflected continuing concern over fallout from the Iraq war and the aggressive posture adopted by the United States since the September 11, 2001 attacks.

"The prevailing economic, security and diplomatic climate have become far less favourable to the maintenance of a stable, equitable and rule-based global order"

Kofi Annan,
UN chief

He said the prevailing economic, security and diplomatic climate had "become far less favourable to the maintenance of a stable, equitable and rule-based global order."

If global terrorism threatens peace and can heighten communal tensions,  "the war against terrorism can sometimes aggravate those tensions, as well as raising concerns about the protection of human rights and civil liberties."

The United Nations and the system of collective secrity are under "severe strain," Annan said. 

"In just a few short years, the prevailing atmosphere has shifted from belief in the near-inevitability of globalisation to deep uncertainty about the very survival of our tenuous global order."