U.N. Foreign Ministers Take on Terrorism

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UNITED NATIONS, Jan. 20 (UPI) — Foreign ministers in the U.N. Security Council Monday unanimously approved a resolution calling on all nations to move urgently against terrorism while in adjacent hallways, talk about Iraq underscored the British-U.S. rush vs. the “give-the-inspectors-more-time” stance of nearly all others. The ministerial-level meeting of the 15-member panel — only two foreign ministers failed to show — approved a draft hammered out by the permanent representatives late Friday calling for all countries to take urgent action to prevent and suppress all active and passive support of terrorism and to comply fully with Security Council resolutions dealing with it. The permanent U.N. representatives of Chile and Syria represented their respective nations. The meeting was called by France, this month’s rotating president of the council, and chaired by Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin. The ministers called on states to take a number of steps to fight the menace, including becoming a party to all international conventions and protocols relating to terrorism; helping each other in the prevention, investigation, prosecution and punishment of acts of terrorism, wherever they occurred; and cooperating closely to implement fully the sanctions against terrorists and their associates — in particular, al Qaida and the Taliban and their associates. The panel said its British-chaired Counter-Terrorism Committee must intensify its efforts to promote implementation by U.N. members of all aspects of Resolution 1373, adopted in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States, by reviewing their reports and facilitating international assistance and cooperation. Germany’s Joschka Fischer, by luck of the draw, was the first foreign minister to speak, and the first to tie-in Baghdad. Berlin’s opposition to military action against Iraq has been well voiced. “The issue we are dealing with today is a top international priority,” he said, “since the Sword of Damocles of international terrorism is hanging over all of us. Terrorism kills innocent people and is a crime. It threatens peace and security, it threatens democracy, development and freedom, it scorns national and international law and brutally attacks human rights.” None of the subsequent speakers disagreed. But later in his remarks, he introduced Iraq into the debate. “We are greatly concerned that a military strike against the regime in Baghdad would involve considerable and unpredictable risks for the global fight against terrorism,” Fischer said. “We have no illusion about the nature of Saddam Hussein’s regime. Therefore, we all demand that Baghdad implement the relevant U.N. resolutions in full and without any exceptions. “However, in addition to disastrous consequences for long-term regional stability, we also fear possible negative repercussions for the joint fight against terrorism,” the foreign minister said. “These are fundamental reasons for our rejection of military action.” British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw followed shortly afterward with his say, reiterating the necessity for unity against terrorists. “The world must be in no doubt. If the terrorists can, they will,” he said. “If they can get their hands on nerve gases, or killer viruses, or, nuclear bombs, they will use them.” He went on to say “action to stop rogue states’ proliferation is as urgent as action to stop terrorism. Yes, wherever we can, we should use diplomatic means to get proliferators to comply, as we are with North Korea, patiently. But there comes a moment when our patience must run out.” “We are near that point with Iraq,” Straw said. “So the moment of choice for Saddam (Hussein) is close. He must either resolve this crisis peacefully, by the full and active compliance with his Security Council obligations and full cooperation with inspectors, or face the “serious consequences” — the use of force — which this council warned would follow when it passed (on Nov. 8, Resolution) 1441.” U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, nearly three-quarters of the way through the debate had his turn. “Iraq was given a last chance with Resolution 1441,” he said. “I’m pleased that it was President (George) Bush who brought this situation to the attention of the council in the most forceful way last September to give them this one last chance. We must not shrink from our duties and our responsibilities when the material comes before us next week, and as we consider Iraq’s response to 1441. “We cannot fail to take the action that may be necessary because we are afraid of what others might do. We cannot be shocked into impotence because we’re afraid of the difficult choices that are ahead of us,” said the former officer. “We’ll have much work to do, difficult work, in the days ahead. But we cannot shrink from the responsibilities of dealing with a regime that has gone about development, acquiring, stocking of weapons of mass destruction, that has committed terrorist acts against its neighbors and against its own people, trampled human rights of its own people and its neighbors.” Said Powell, “If Iraq does not come into full compliance, we must not shrink from the responsibilities that we set before ourselves when we adopted 1441 on a unanimous basis and so many other nations expressed their support for 1441. “Weapons of mass destruction in the hands of terrorists or states that support terrorists would represent a mortal danger to us all,” he told the council. “We must make the United Nations even more effective. And we must build even closer international cooperation to keep these weapons out of the hands of terrorists.” Later, speaking with reporters, Powell said, “I wanted there to be no mistake about this — time is running out,” adding, “If the will of the United Nations is going to be relevant, it has to take a firm stand with regard to Iraq’s continuing disregard of its obligations.” As for the recent declaration of additional warheads by Baghdad, the secretary of state said, “They know what they have. It is their obligation to come forward, and we cannot let them to dribble this information and dribble these items out for as long as they choose to, in an effort to thwart the will of the international community.” The Security Council counter-terror measure also said states must ensure that any resolution adopted to combat terrorism comply with all their obligations under international law, and should adopt such measures in accordance with international law, in particular international human rights, refugee and humanitarian law. This was to counter claims that states were short-circuiting human rights in their zeal to catch and prosecute terrorists. “The United Nations has an indispensable role to play in providing the legal and organizational framework within which the international campaign against terrorism can unfold,” said Secretary-General Kofi Annan in his opening statement. “But we must never lose sight of the fact that any sacrifice of freedom or the rule of law within states — or any generation of new tensions between states in the name of anti-terrorism — is to hand the terrorists a victory that no act of theirs alone could possibly bring.” He added, “important and urgent questions are being asked about what might be called the ‘collateral damage’ of the war of terrorism — damage to the presumption of innocence, to precious human rights, to the rule of law, and to the very fabric of democratic governance.” Domestically, he said, the danger is that in pursuit of security, crucial liberties could be sacrificed — weakening rather than strengthening common security. “Internationally, the world is seeing an increasing use of what I call the ‘T-word’ — terrorism — to demonize political opponents, to throttle freedom of speech and the press, and to de-legitimize legitimate political grievances.” Similarly, states fighting various forms of unrest or insurgency are finding it tempting to abandon the sometimes slow process of political negotiation for the deceptively easy option of military action. He said the world organization had to do whatever it could to deny terrorists the opportunity to commit their crimes. But, he said, that just as terrorism must never be excused, so must genuine grievances never be ignored. He urged determination to solve political disputes and long-standing conflicts, which underpinned, fueled and generated support for terrorism. The adopted text encouraged international organizations to evaluate ways in which they could enhance the effectiveness of their action against terrorism, including by establishing dialogue and information exchange with each other and with other international participants. It also emphasized the role of regional and sub-regional organizations in working with the CTC, established by Resolution 1373, and other international organizations. The council said that continuing international efforts to enhance dialogue and broadening the understanding among civilizations “will contribute to international cooperation and collaboration, which by themselves are necessary to sustain the broadest possible fight against terrorism.” Copyright 2003 by United Press International. All rights reserved.