Global perspective Human stories

On second day of debate, General Assembly hears calls for definition of terrorism

On second day of debate, General Assembly hears calls for definition of terrorism

As the General Assembly entered the second day of its weeklong debate on measures to combat international terrorism, several speakers called attention to the need to define the scourge in order to effectively combat it.

Yemen's Ambassador, Abdalla Saleh Al-Ashtal, joined numerous others who have expressed support for the recently adopted Security Council resolution on fighting terrorism, but pointed out that its implementation would be affected by the fact that there was no agreed definition of terrorism.

Echoing this view, the Ambassador of Malaysia, Hasmy Agam, stressed that without a clear definition, it would be difficult to enforce international agreements to combat the menace. "Acts of pure terrorism, involving attacks against innocent civilian populations - which cannot be justified under any circumstances - should be differentiated from the legitimate struggles of peoples under colonial or alien domination and foreign occupation for self-determination and national liberation," he said.

Speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, Libyan Ambassador Abuzed Omar Dorda said States that harboured terrorists of Arab nationalities should surrender them to their countries so that these elements may be brought to justice. The Arab Group also advocated convening an international conference to arrive at a definition of terrorism, he said, adding that the Group would oppose any attempt to classify resistance to occupation as a terrorist act. "Such an attempt will turn concepts topsy-turvy, and only hatred can be engendered from this kind of oppression."

Supporting the call for an anti-terrorism conference, Iran's Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs, Javad Zarif, said the forum should elaborate objective criteria that would allow the international community to identify and combat terrorism. "Legitimacy as well as sustainability of the global struggle against terrorism rests on applying a single set of standards to all," he said.

Pledging his country's full support for the fight against terrorism, Ambassador Shamshad Ahmad of Pakistan emphasized the need to tackle the root causes of that peril, noting that stability and mutual prosperity were critical to that effort. "It will continue to haunt us if the roots of terrorism, which lie in the inequality of societies, in the exploitation of downtrodden, in the denial of fundamental rights and in the sense of injustice, are not addressed," he said.

The Ambassador of the Sudan, Elfatih Mohamed Ahmed Erwa, stressed that his country would never be a haven for terrorist groups and would fully cooperate in any effort to eliminate terrorism. The Sudan would support international laws and General Assembly resolutions aimed at combating terrorism and apprehending the perpetrators.

Guatemalan Ambassador Gert Rosenthal pointed out that the battle against terrorism would require fighting crime, drug trafficking and money laundering "given the actual or potential links between these scourges, which are becoming increasingly international in nature." He supported Secretary-General Kofi Annan's view that the UN "constitutes the natural forum" for this effort - a view shared by numerous speakers in the debate.

The Ambassador of the Republic of Korea, Ambassador Sun Joun-yung, said the tragedy of 11 September presented the UN with the "solemn task" of tackling terrorism issues. "The international community is watching us, anticipating with great hope a concerted effort against terrorism," he said. "It is incumbent upon us to live up to this hope."

The Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ireland, Brian Cowen, paid special tribute to the New York City police and fire fighters who had lost their lives trying to save others during the terrorist attack against the World Trade Center. "Let those images and those stories of bravery and heroism in the face of the most awful terror stand as a constant reminder that we, members of this Assembly, have our own duty to perform, to ensure that terrorists will find no welcome in any part of the globe," he said.