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UN well-placed to help in fight against terrorism, experts tell Vienna symposium

UN well-placed to help in fight against terrorism, experts tell Vienna symposium

A two-day symposium on international terrorism opened today in Vienna aiming to explore ways of strengthening international law to combat the scourge while harnessing the contributions of various UN entities to this endeavour.

The symposium, organized with the support of the Austrian Government, also sought to look at how the expertise of the Vienna-based UN Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention (ODCCP) in the fields of transnational organized crime, drug trafficking and money laundering can be used by the international community in fighting terrorism.

Addressing participants, the Austrian Foreign Minister, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, announced that her Government would contribute $1 million to support the ODCCP's Centre for International Crime Prevention.

Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock of the United Kingdom, who chairs the Security Council Counter-Terrorism Committee, described its work in recent months to implement a landmark Council resolution - 1373 - which was adopted in the wake of the 11 September attacks.

He also outlined proposals for focusing the work of the UN Terrorism Prevention Branch. "Good guidance is crucial for States with less experience of terrorism who are trying to upgrade their capacity," he said, urging the Branch to help States to quickly ratify the Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Financing. Similarly, the UN should work to help countries join the 11 other international anti-terror pacts, he said.

"The whole point of 1373 and its implementation programme is this: we need practical programmes, and collective action now," he said. "Vienna's UN institutions have a specific contribution to make, within the unique role which the UN as a whole has to play to make the eradication of terrorism a global reality."

Shashi Tharoor, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, called for international steps against terrorist groups themselves, and said terrorists must be denied sanctuary and legitimacy. Thanks to its universal membership and moral authority, the UN was the best venue for strengthening mechanisms to keep weapons out of the hands of terrorists and to freeze their financial assets, he added.

The UN had long been at the forefront of efforts to promote democracy, good governance and human rights, Mr. Tharoor noted. "We must place these core values even higher on our international agenda, and reduce our tolerance for autocratic and arbitrary regimes even further," he said. "Just as we make the world a smaller and less secure place for terrorism's pyromaniacs, we must make it a less friendly and less receptive place for those regimes that repress their citizens, and thereby fuel the fire."