UNITED NATIONS, Sept. 25 — President Bush today chided nations to live up to the rights and freedoms the United Nations promised six decades ago, announced new sanctions on Myanmar and denounced the governments of Belarus, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Syria and Zimbabwe as “brutal regimes.”
Appearing at the opening of the 62nd session of the General Assembly, Mr. Bush called on members of the United Nations to do more to support nascent democracies and to oppose autocratic and tyrannical governments.
“Every civilized nation also has a responsibility to stand up for the people suffering under dictatorship,” Mr. Bush said.
Mr. Bush’s sharp comments were typical of his attacks on countries that the United States groups among the least democratic in the world. In the case of Myanmar, Mr. Bush excoriated the country’s military government, which in the last few weeks has faced the most extensive public protests in nearly two decades.
He outlined a tightening of financial sanctions on Myanmar and an extension of a ban on visas of officials “responsible for the most egregious violations of human rights” and their families.
“Americans are outraged by the situation in Burma, where a military junta has imposed a 19-year reign of fear,” Mr. Bush said. “Basic freedoms of speech, assembly, and worship are severely restricted. Ethnic minorities are persecuted. Forced child labor, human trafficking, and rape are common.”
Mr. Bush was one of the first speakers to take the lectern on the assembly’s opening day of speeches today, which also begins a week of diplomatic activity on the sidelines.
Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is scheduled to address the assembly later this afternoon, and other world leaders and government officials will speak during the week.
Mr. Bush held separate talks at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel today with Iraq’s prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, today, in which the two leaders touched on the need for national reconciliation in Iraq, the necessity of passing new important legislation and the need for a stronger Iraqi security force,
They also discussed issues related to Blackwater USA, a private American security company involved in a shooting in Baghdad this month in which 11 people were killed.
Mr. Maliki has said that the shooting of the Iraqi civilians amounts to a challenge to the nation’s sovereignty. The Iraqi government has said it expects to refer criminal charges to its courts in connection with the shooting.
The Blackwater subject arose between Mr. Maliki and Mr. Bush as part of a general discussion of the recognition of Iraqi sovereignty, the national security adviser, Stephen J. Hadley, told reporters. But he added that Mr. Maliki discussed Blackwater directly with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
“The United States and Iraq are working together to look at this incident and related incidents,” he said.
An investigation is focusing on an episode on Sept. 16 in which Blackwater’s security guards opened fire in Nisour Square in western Baghdad.
At least 11 people were killed. It was the seventh episode in which the Iraqi authorities had cited Blackwater for the injurious behavior of its guards toward civilians.
After their talks, Mr. Bush expressed support and confidence in Mr. Maliki, reflecting his administration’s decision to continue backing him, an apparent reprieve after American talk of pushing him aside.
“And so I want to thank you for your dedication and your commitment to laws that will help this young democracy reconcile and move forward,” Mr. Bush said.
He noted that Mr. Maliki was “sitting in a vital region, and when you succeed — which I’m confident you will — it’ll send a message to other people who believe in peace.”
At the General Assembly before his meeting with Mr. Maliki, Mr. Bush spoke to an audience that included representatives of some of the countries he singled out for criticism, including Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Mr. Bush’s speech in the assembly is likely to be the closest the two men come to each other this week.
Before the speech, Laura Bush, the first lady, walked directly past Mr. Ahmadinejad , putting her right hand on the corner of his rostrum at one point, though no words were exchanged.
One delegation boycotting Mr. Bush’s speech was Cuba’s, leaving its three seats in the General Assembly hall empty.
In Cuba, Mr. Bush said, “the long rule of a cruel dictator is nearing its end.”
He called the government of Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe — the only world leader he mentioned by name — “an assault on its people and an affront to the principles” of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Mr. Bush referred repeatedly to the declaration, citing its first article — “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights” — as well as the 23rd, 25th and 26th articles, which call for access to employment, health care and education.
The declaration, a nonbinding resolution, was negotiated in 1948 as a sort of international Bill of Rights. It calls for freedom of speech, assembly, and religion and prohibits slavery, torture and arbitrary detention.
The protests in Myanmar are taking place under the shadow of the possibility of a violent crackdown by the government. In 1988, some 3,000 people were killed when the military crushed larger pro-democracy protests. Although some reports have said that truckloads of soldiers moved into position at one point during the protests in Yangon today, the day’s protests dispersed without incident.
Since 1988, Myanmar has become the focus of international condemnation for its abuses of human and political rights and its treatment of the pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest in Yangon for 12 of the past 18 years.
The United States has pressed for the release of Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi. Myanmar’s leaders, Mr. Bush said today, are “holding more than a thousand political prisoners”, including Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi, whose party he said had been elected overwhelmingly.
According to news reports from inside Myanmar, which is mostly sealed off to foreign reporters, about 4,000 monks gathered today, cheered on by several thousand supporters. A smaller number were reported marching in the country’s second largest city, Mandalay. The government later imposed a curfew.
In his remarks to the assembly, Mr. Bush touched on the issue of institutional reform of the United Nations, saying that the United States was open to the prospect of reform to the Security Council, including an expansion of its membership.
“We believe that Japan is well-qualified for permanent membership on the Security Council, and that other nations should be considered, as well,”‘ he said.