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European Countries Pledge Practical Measures in Fighting Terrorism


Security ministers from Europe say they will cooperate on practical measures to combat terrorism. The security conference was called after the public revelation of the alleged terrorist plot against U.S.-bound aircraft.

British Home Secretary John Reid says all of Europe faces, what he calls, "a persistent and very real terrorist threat" and individual rights have to be balanced against collective security to combat it.

"But as we face the threat of mass murder we have to accept that the rights as an individual that we enjoy must be balanced with the collective right of security and the protection of life and limb that our citizens demand," he said. "That is not always an easy balance, but it is one that we are committed to maintaining."

Reid briefed his European counterparts on the alleged terrorist plot hatched in Britain against U.S.-bound aircraft. The European security ministers pledged to take, what they called, "joint practical measures" to combat the terrorist threat.

The measures include better information sharing, speeded-up research into the detection of explosives, and improving relations with their respective Muslim communities. The ministers also agreed to convene a special conference of their intelligence chiefs.

European Union Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini said the measures might also include blocking Internet websites that incite terrorism.

"But I think it is very important, for example, to explore further possibilities of blocking websites that concretely incite to commit terrorist actions or for example providing of the diffusion of expertise or knowledge about bomb making," said Frattini.

Frattini acknowledged that it is a sensitive subject and one the ministers did not discuss during their meeting. He also said European governments will do more to improve relations with their Muslim communities.

"We have been discussing about the integration and relations with Muslim communities. One area, which is very important, is radicalization," he added. "Prevent and fight against radicalization also means thinking about training imams at the European level, because we do want a European Islam. And that is very important not only to show to the Muslim communities that we fully respect other religions, other faiths, but that we also want their respect of national laws, European laws, and fundamental rights, and, first of all, the right to life."

Some British Muslim leaders have sharply criticized the anti-terror laws adopted by Britain after last year's suicide bombings on London Underground trains, saying the measures unfairly single them out for special attention by authorities.

Britain also adopted especially stringent security controls at its airports after the terrorist plot came to light last week.

British Home Secretary Reid said European countries have to adopt a common set of security standards so terrorists will not look to shop around to find an airport with weaker security measures.

"And one of the points this morning was to discuss and share the threats and the responses precisely in order that we do not have a position where the terrorists feel that if it is difficult to get through the security checks in London, they might be able to go to Frankfurt or Berlin or Paris or somewhere else," he added.

Meanwhile, an embarrassing security breach has come to light. A 12-year-old runaway boy with no passport, ticket or boarding pass got on board a Lisbon-bound flight Monday at London's Gatwick Airport. He was discovered before takeoff when flight attendants found there was one too many passengers aboard the plane.

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