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Trump urges reform in United Nations debut

US president Donald Trump has made his debut at the United Nations, using his first moments at the world body to urge it to reduce bureaucracy and costs while more clearly defining its mission around the world.

But while Mr Trump chastised the UN - an organisation he sharply criticised during his election campaign over its spiralling costs - he said the United States would "pledge to be partners in your work" in order to make the UN "a more effective force" for peace across the globe.

Mr Trump said: "In recent years, the United Nations has not reached its full potential due to bureaucracy and mismanagement."

In a rebuke over the UN's ballooning budget, he added: "We are not seeing the results in line with this investment."

The US leader pushed the UN to focus "more on people and less on bureaucracy" and to "not be beholden to ways of the past which were not working".

He also suggested that the United States is paying more than its fair share to keep the New York-based world body operational.

He also complimented the steps the United Nations had taken in the early stages of the reform process and made no threats to withdraw his nation's support.

His measured tone stood in stark contrast to his last maiden appearance at a global body, when he stood at Nato's new Brussels headquarters in May and scolded the member nations for not paying enough and refusing to explicitly back its mutual defence pact.

While running for office, Mr Trump labelled the UN as weak and incompetent, and not a friend of either the United States or Israel.

But he has softened his tone since taking office, telling ambassadors from UN Security Council member countries at a White House meeting this year that the UN has "tremendous potential".

Mr Trump more recently has praised a pair of unanimous council votes to tighten sanctions on North Korea over its continued nuclear weapon and ballistic missile tests.

Mr Trump's big moment comes on Tuesday, when he delivers his first address to a session of the UN General Assembly.

The annual gathering of world leaders will open amid serious concerns about Mr Trump's priorities, including his policy of "America First", his support for the UN and a series of global crises.

It will be the first time world leaders will be in the same room and able to take the measure of Mr Trump.

The president praised UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who also spoke at the reform meeting and said he shared Mr Trump's vision for a less wasteful UN to "live up to its full potential".

The US has asked member nations to sign a declaration on UN reforms, and more than 120 have done so.

The president also kicked off his maiden speech at the world body by making a reference to the Trump-branded apartment tower across First Avenue from the UN.

Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, said Mr Trump's criticisms were accurate at the time, but that it is now a "new day" at the UN. An organisation that "talked a lot but didn't have a lot of action" has given way to a "United Nations that's action-oriented", she said, noting the Security Council votes on North Korea this month.

Mr Guterres has proposed a massive package of changes, and Ms Haley said the UN is "totally moving toward reform".

AP

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