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General Assembly opens weeklong debate on fighting international terrorism

General Assembly opens weeklong debate on fighting international terrorism

As the United Nations General Assembly today opened its weeklong debate on measures to combat international terrorism, countries from across the globe strongly condemned the menace while pledging to take specific and resolute steps to eradicate it from the world.

Numerous participants in today's debate advocated adherence to existing UN anti-terrorism treaties as well as the elaboration of new legal instruments to fight the menace. There was also broad support among the more than 20 speakers for the recently adopted Security Council resolution which lays out wide-ranging strategies to combat international terrorism. In addition, several participants put forward new proposals for galvanizing worldwide action in this effort.

In opening the debate General Assembly President Han Seung-soo of the Republic of Korea said the fight against terrorism transcended cultural and religious differences. "We must never forget that terrorism is not a weapon yielded by one civilization against another, but rather an instrument of destruction through which small bands of criminals seek to undermine civilization itself," he said.

United States Ambassador John D. Negroponte said the struggle against terrorism would be lengthy and its progress would be erratic. "Already we see heartening results through effective law enforcement around the world, but this war won't be over until we shatter the global terrorists' ability to share information, techniques, personnel, money, and weapons," he said. "And as we dismantle the terrorists' ability to leverage their resources by cross-border subterfuge, we must also shut down their activities in each and every Member State." He added that the US did not feel alone in this effort. "In this great house of nations, we have many friends."

Speaking on behalf of the European Union (EU), Jean de Ruyt of Belgium said the EU would step up action against terrorism through a coordinated and interdisciplinary approach. Stopping the flow of funds for terrorism was a decisive aspect of the European policy, he said, pledging the EU's full support for all measures to combat any financing of terrorist activities.

For his part, South African Ambassador Dumisani S. Kumalo said his country would cooperate with all efforts to apprehend those responsible for the 11 September attacks and bring them to justice. "To the extent that the current investigations into these acts of terror may require concrete intelligence information that South Africa may have at its disposal, our security agencies will continue to co-operate with their US counterparts," he said.

Costa Rican Ambassador Bernd Niehaus stressed that the fight against terrorism must not oppress religious or ethnic minorities. "The war against terrorism does not justify the use of totalitarian methods nor does it legitimize the existence of dictatorial regimes," he said. "On the contrary, the fight against this scourge must follow closely principles of human rights."

Ahmed Aboul Gheit, the Ambassador of Egypt, said using Islam to justify crimes against innocent people was "a cause for deep sorrow." He also reiterated a proposal by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to convene an international conference on terrorism, emphasizing that this would be a great contribution to combating the scourge and calling on the Assembly to adopt a resolution setting in motion preparations for the event.

Mongolia's representative, Jargalsaikhany Enkhsaikhan, stressed that his country's participation in international conventions against terrorism was based on its firm belief that international terrorism affected all and that all States, including those not directly affected, could make a difference. Terrorists could pursue their aims in or through small and weaker States, seeing in them the 'weak link' in opposing or fighting terrorism, he noted.

The discussion of terrorism, moved up from a later date because of the urgency of the issue, was convened at a time when the Assembly should have been holding its annual high-level debate. That debate, which annually attracts national leaders from around the world, was postponed because it would have been a drain on New York City's security services at a time when they were already stretched while coping with the aftermath of the terrorist attacks against the World Trade Center.