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US Presses APEC Members to Strongly Condemn Terrorism - 2001-10-17

The United States is pressing members of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum to strongly condemn terrorism, but some member nations with Muslim majorities have reservations. Chinese officials hosting the meeting say the sides have reached a consensus.

China's APEC spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue says officials from some of the Pacific Rim nations that make up APEC have been negotiating revisions to a U.S. drafted statement condemning terrorism.

News accounts say that draft outlined several specific steps to stop terrorism, including making it harder to hide money laundering and boosting airport security. Other provisions focus on keeping oil supplies stable and standardizing customs procedures so police can catch criminals without blocking trade.

China reportedly prepared a compromise document condemning the terror attacks, and seeking to limit and repair the economic damage they cause. But Chinese spokeswoman Zhang would give few details of the discussions. "The consensus has been reached and the main content of the statement is that the members are committed to the fight against international terrorism," she said. "I think that is quite clear."

She says whatever deal is worked out by ministers and officials still must be talked over by the heads of state who gather here over the next few days.

President Bush arrives in Shanghai Thursday, seeking APEC support for the war on terrorism sparked by September's deadly attacks on the United States. But the heads of nations with significant Muslim populations, such as Indonesia's Megawati Sukarnoputri and Malaysia's Mahathir Mohamad, have expressed reservations about the U.S. led bombing raids on suspected terrorist targets in Afghanistan.

It would be unusual for APEC to issue a strong statement on a political issue. The body operates by consensus and traditionally works to improve the economies of its members by promoting trade.

Wednesday's meeting of APEC trade and foreign ministers followed that tradition. They focused on clearing obstacles to a new round of global trade talks and renewing a commitment to liberalize trade and investment in the Asia Pacific region. The officials also talked about ways to take advantage of the Internet to boost commerce and technology in the area.

The 21 members of APEC include large economies such as Japan and the United States as well as developing nations such as Papua New Guinea and Vietnam.