A coalition of anti-abortion and religious activists blamed rich Western nations for pushing ``radical language'' on abortion, sexual rights and homosexual rights that have stalled negotiations.
More liberal women's activists accused the Vatican and some Islamic and Catholic countries of blocking consensus on a U.N. document to accelerate progress toward equality for women.
The two sides traded charges as delegates from some 180 nations reviewing progress since the landmark 1995 Beijing women's conference met in small groups behind closed doors into the night Wednesday--trying to reach agreement on a final text by a self-imposed deadline of Thursday afternoon. The five-day special session of the General Assembly scheduled to end Friday.
While negotiators have been concentrating on the final document--which is supposed to give new impetus to the 150-page platform of action adopted at Beijing--ministers have been addressing an open plenary session on progress toward the goal of women's equality.
U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is scheduled to give the U.S. position at Thursday morning's session.
On Wednesday, Nigeria's Minister for Women's Affairs Aisha Ismail, speaking on behalf of 133 developing countries, said their top priority for women is eradicating poverty and improving health and education.
Since Beijing, she said, technology has transformed the world into a global village, but women in developing countries have found it ``extremely difficult...to cope with the forces of globalization.''
How the final document should address the issue of globalization remains in dispute.
In the latest progress report on the world's women, the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) said only eight countries have met the goals of achieving equality for girls in secondary education and of having at least 30 percent of women in parliament.
The report also found that women's share of paid employment has increased in all regions, except parts of Eastern Europe, since the mid 1980s. But it found that most jobs were in industry and services.
Noeleen Heyzer, executive director of UNIFEM, said the report showed that there was greater need for accountability, both of governments and of the private sector, another unresolved issue.
The clash between the anti-abortion groups and the feminist activists highlighted the most contentious unresolved issues--similar to those that held up final consensus until the last minute in Beijing. Those centered on reproductive and sexual rights.
Gita Sen, a professor at the Indian Institute of Management who heads a grassroots women's organization, on Wednesday put the Vatican, Nicaragua, Libya, Sudan and Iraq at the top of the list of countries blocking a consensus and called for an end to ``the tyranny of this minuscule minority.''
Other delegates previously had included Algeria, Iran and Pakistan as well.
If these countries don't budge, Sen said, the conference should adopt the final document by consensus and let them express reservations about issues they oppose--just as they did at Beijing.
The coalition released a letter signed by 23 members of the U.S. Congress expressing ``great alarm'' that the American delegation is calling for increased access to abortions and mandatory training to perform them--and is promoting ``a new and dangerous term, `sexual rights.'''
``It will mean not just special rights for homosexuals but could mean the right to sexual expression for children. Moreover, it may allow for the spread of prostitution,'' said the letter, which was addressed to all 188 U.N. member states.
Austin Ruse, president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, said the final text isn't finished because rich Western states are attempting to spread ``immorality'' to the developing world in a new kind of ``sexual colonialism.''
Mary Ellen Glynn, spokeswoman for the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, countered the United States believes access to family planning and reproductive health information will lead to fewer abortions in the world - ``which we support.''
She noted the Beijing platform recognized for the first time that human rights include the right of women to control their own sexuality without ``coercion, discrimination and violence.''
``The U.S. believes that the definition of sexual rights is consistent with that language,'' she said.