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Annan steps in to boost negotiations on anti-terror conventions

Annan steps in to boost negotiations on anti-terror conventions

Seeking to foster agreement on a draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism, Secretary-General Kofi Annan will hold talks with key negotiators in advance of the General Assembly's annual high level debate, according to the United Nations Legal Counsel.

Speaking to reporters at a press conference in New York today, Legal Counsel Hans Corell said negotiations were largely complete but agreement was still outstanding on several key issues, including a definition of terrorism.

"The Secretary-General will follow this personally now, and the hope is of course that there might be a solution," said Mr. Corell, emphasizing that negotiations had so far been conducted in a "very positive atmosphere."

The Legal Counsel said Mr. Annan would hold discussions aimed at furthering the efforts of the working group which has been drafting the text. "The Secretary-General has decided to maintain the momentum before the [Assembly's] general debate here, so he will see some ambassadors this afternoon who represent countries who had key roles in the discussions in the working group," Mr. Corell said.

The need for a definition of terrorism has long been on the international agenda, according to Mr. Corell, who said the issue centres on "how to make clear the distinction between criminal acts under the heading of terrorism and criminal acts that belong to another regime of the law."

"All Member States will have to agree to have as precise a definition as possible so we can settle this matter, put it behind us, and agree that everybody now - all Member States - should join the fight against this scourge," he said.

The draft comprehensive convention, he explained, aims to "prohibit terrorist activities in all their forms and manifestations, and in particular to cover those offences which are outside the scope of the specialized conventions." The United Nations has already negotiated 12 anti-terrorism binding texts dealing with specific issues, such as hijackings or terrorist bombings.

"Ultimately, an important legislative act of this nature is a political matter," said Mr. Corell. "The lawyers, I think, have done as much as they can, so basically it has to be discussed at the political level."