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By Lesley Wroughton and Missy Ryan

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - African leaders saidTuesday they could do more to meet U.N. goals to slash extremepoverty and urged stronger leadership among developingcountries to tackle hunger and disease and attract investment.

A special session of the U.N. General Assembly is reviewingprogress in meeting the U.N. Millennium Goals agreed in 2000and urged intensified efforts to achieve them.

While the world looks set to halve poverty and hunger by2015, the U.N. agrees that countries are behind on other goalssuch as improving education and maternal health, reducing childmortality, combating diseases including AIDS, promoting genderequality and protecting the environment.

The goals have been set back by the global economic crisis,which has forced some rich donors to cut development assistanceas they try to trim their budgets and focus on job losses.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame urged developing countries toexamine why some were behind on meeting the goals and to takecharge of their own development agendas instead of leaving itup to donors and aid groups to dictate them.

"Despite their good intentions, their perspective is oftenpredicated on paternalism not on partnership, on charity not onself-reliance, and on promises unfulfilled rather than realchange on the ground," he told the meeting.

He said the global political and economic landscape hadchanged significantly since the goals were first agreed.

"We in the developing world could do more. We have toreflect deeply on how we have driven this agenda so far and whywe are lagging behind on these targets.... we must assumeeffective leadership," he added.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who has longchampioned African solutions, said it was time for developingcountries to take ownership of their own development.

"There is no doubt in my mind that we in the developingworld have to do more and better to take charge of our destiny,to design programs and strategies appropriate to ourcircumstances and mobilize our own resources as the primarymeans of achieving the MDGs," he added.

BLAMING SANCTIONS

The views of Kagame and Meles chimed with those of someWestern leaders such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whosaid her country had not cut aid but poor countries should notrely indefinitely on handouts.

"The primary responsibility for development lies with thegovernments of the developing countries," she told the meeting."It is in their hands whether aid can be effective. Therefore,support for good governance is as important as aid itself."

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe blamed "illegal anddebilitating" sanctions for widespread poverty in his country.

The United States and the European Union imposed sanctionson state firms and travel restrictions on Mugabe and dozens ofhis associates nearly 10 years ago after a violent re-electioncampaign and often violent commercial farm seizures.

"As a result of these punitive measures and despite ourturn-around economic plan, Zimbabwe has been prevented frommaking a positive difference in the lives of the poor, thehungry, the sick and the destitute among its citizens," hesaid.

Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose fiery speechesare closely watched at U.N. gatherings and have often promptedwalkouts by the United States, told the summit capitalism wasdying and a new economic system was needed.

"Now that the discriminatory order of capitalism and thehegemonic approaches are facing defeat and are getting close totheir end, all-out participation in upholding justice andprosperous inter-relations is essential," he said.

"The world is in need of an encompassing and of course justand human order in light of which the rights of all arepreserved and peace and security are safeguarded."

Several speakers said the goals will not be achieved unlessmore is done to improve the lives of poor women.

Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Africa's firstfemale head of state, called for more investments in sectorsthat help women, including agriculture and small-scale enterprises.

"As we renew our resolve in the year 2010 we must recognizethe need for inclusive economic growth ... rapid, sustainedgrowth that creates jobs especially for youth and that help thepoor and in sectors that help women," she said.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso announced1 billion euro ($1.3 billion) in financing to help Africa,Caribbean and Pacific countries lagging in the MDGs and toldother donors not to use the economic crisis as an excuse toshirk their responsibilities to the poor. (Additional reporting by Helen Popper; Editing by CynthiaOsterman)