In aftermath of terror attacks, Annan cautions against jumping to conclusions

13 September 2001

Addressing religious communities gathered in New York two days after terrorist attacks rocked this city, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan cautioned today against passing quick judgement as to who might be involved in perpetrating those horrible crimes.

"The events of the last two days must have tested the faith in every one of us," Mr. Annan told an interfaith service, which is traditionally held at the start of the UN General Assembly to express commitment to the world body. This year the service was dedicated to all the victims of Tuesday's attacks.

"At such times, it is all too tempting to jump to conclusions about the kind of people who must be behind such appalling acts, and to identify them with some faith or community different from our own," Mr. Annan said.

"We like to think of such acts as inhuman, but the truth is that human nature can sink to the depths of horror as well as rise to the heights of nobility," he noted. "It is up to each of us to cultivate the best in his or her nature, and to struggle against the worst."

That was why, the Secretary-General stressed, he valued so highly the efforts of the Interfaith Centre "to find the common ground of mutual respect and love, which goes with true spirituality."

Later in the day, a spokesman for Mr. Annan was asked by a reporter whether the Secretary-General, in light of the attacks, would press further for peace in the Middle East. Spokesman Fred Eckhard replied that a direct link between events in the Middle East and the attack on the United States had not been precisely determined so far. He noted, however, that it was felt by many that progress in the Middle East would reduce tensions.

In that regard, Mr. Eckhard recalled that the Secretary-General had called for "cool and reasoned judgment" following the Tuesday attack. Mr. Annan has been working hard behind the scenes, along with European diplomats, to bring about meetings between Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat and Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, the spokesman said.

 

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