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Interpol Members Meet in Budapest

The terrorist attacks against the United States have dominated the 70th meeting of the international criminal police organization, Interpol, held in Hungary. Police officials from round the world have concluded that Interpol failed to prevent the attacks because of inadequate resources and information. Interpol has announced structural changes in the way it operates, to help America in its war against terror.

The 135 countries at Interpol's General Assembly unanimously condemned what they described as the "murderous attacks" perpetrated against citizens of the United States and over 80 countries.

They especially paid tribute to the memory of police officials and rescue workers killed in the worst ever terrorist attacks against America.

Interpol is now suggesting the day of these attacks, September 11, should become an annual day of remembrance. But these events also underlined what some officials described as the incompetence of the international police organization in handling the terrorist challenges of the new century.

Interpol's Secretary-General Ronald Noble says that Interpol's 179 member states will have to dramatically increase co-operation, as terrorists seem to change their tactics. "Obviously the world has learned of the ability of these terrorists to target objects that would have been unthinkable as targets for terrorism," Mr. Noble says. "The ability to infiltrate a country and to remain hidden for over a year, and the ability to have access to false identity documents to pretend to be people other than they really were. And I think that gives you an idea what we as a world and individual police forces need to focus on and concentrate on."

During the four day meeting, which ended late Thursday, Mr. Noble urged the world's police forces to be alert 24 hours a day throughout the year as, in his words, terrorists were able to strike at any time.

Interpol has also created a September 11 task force to deal with terrorist threats.

It has already posted a so-called red notice for the alleged right hand man of Osama bin Laden, the Saudi exile believed to be behind the terrorist attacks. Officials say Interpol has instructed its 179 member states, to trace Aiman Al Zawahri, who is said to be the leader of the Al Jihad terrorist group, which has close ties to Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaida network.

Interpol's President, Jesus Espigares Mira of Spain, says that this is only one of many steps taken by his organization. He says that based on experiences in his own country, Interpol will have to become a different kind of operation. "We will try to re-allocate our resources from the normal prosecution area's, to the fight against terrorism."

Interpol has also agreed to improve internet security and poorer member countries have been granted an amnesty from debts owed to Interpol. A senior Hungarian police official, Zoltan Nagy, told VOA that the decision was made to readjust the burdens to enable these nations to participate in what is expected to become a very expensive operation. He says Interpol plans to sign, possible multi-million dollar deals, with security companies and other firms, who also sponsored the meeting in Budapest.