Published September 19, 2005
UNITED NATIONS – Having already agreed to condemn terrorism, leaders at the U.N. General Assembly (search) urged quick adoption of a comprehensive global treaty that would put the words into action.
But one issue in particular is causing trouble — how to define terrorism amid concern independence struggles would be targeted.
Speakers at the assembly's annual ministerial meeting welcomed the adoption in April of a global treaty to prevent nuclear terrorism. The treaty makes it a crime to damage a nuclear facility or possess radioactive material or weapons with the intention of committing a terrorist act.
A British-sponsored resolution accepted unanimously by the Security Council (search) on the sidelines of a U.N. summit last week also called upon all states to prohibit and prevent terrorism and deny a safe haven to anyone considered guilty of such conduct.
But delegates stressed the need for a broader convention that would serve as a framework for governments to work together to curtail international terrorism.
"The fight against terrorism must be continued in the most decisive manner," Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told the assembly.
Kazakhstan's (search) Foreign Minister Kasimzhomart Tokaev also called for the early completion of a comprehensive convention on terrorism.
He warned that poverty breeds extremism and that "young people are increasingly being sucked into the ideological orbit of international terrorism."
Last week's U.N. summit ended with world leaders adopting a watered-down document committing them to efforts to fight poverty, human rights abuses and terrorism.
The declaration put leaders on record for the first time as condemning "terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, committed by whomever, wherever and for whatever purpose ... ." But it failed to include a definition of terrorism that rules out attacks on civilians, as U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan (search) had recommended.
Nonetheless, Annan said it was an important first step.
"You must build on that simple statement to complete a comprehensive convention against terrorism in the year ahead and forge a global counterterrorism strategy that weakens terrorists," he told the assembly on Saturday. "We can do it and we must do it."
The definition of terrorism has long stymied the United Nations and provoked bitter diplomatic disputes as some countries feared it would implicate those involved in independence struggles.
Washington also asked that the summit document make clear that it didn't encompass military activities.
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw (search), whose country suffered deadly attacks on its transit system in July, said the ratification of a comprehensive convention on terrorism was a high priority.
"None of us is safe from the threat of terror," he told the assembly. "International terrorism requires an international response; otherwise we all pay the price for each other's vulnerabilities."
The United States also called for a strong commitment to completing the broader treaty.
"No cause, no movement and no grievance can justify the intentional killing of innocent civilians and noncombatants," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (search) told delegates on Saturday.
Brazil's Foreign Minister Celso Amorim stressed the importance of protecting civil and political liberties.
"The fight against terrorism cannot be viewed in terms of police repression alone," he said. "Neither can such repressive acts result in absurd, indiscriminate deaths, similar to those caused by terrorism itself."