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Russia Hosts Forum to Combat Terrorism - 2002-03-27

Hundreds of delegates from Russia, Europe and Central Asia have gathered in St. Petersburg for an international forum on combating terrorism.

Delegates to the two-day forum were greeted with a message from Russian President Vladimir Putin, stressing the need for global cooperation in the fight against terrorism.

The Russian news agency Itar-Tass quotes parliament speaker Gennady Seleznyov as calling for the adoption of a UN convention to include a common definition of terrorism. He said it would oblige signatories to prevent terrorist acts and to punish those who carry them out.

The secretary-general of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Jan Kubis, also called for a common strategy against terrorism.

But, he also warned that terrorism must not become an excuse for suppressing dissent or freedom of speech. He said countries should be guided by common democratic standards in their fight against terrorism.

Itar-Tass quotes the deputy chairman of the European parliament, Renzo Imbeni, as saying terrorism cannot be fought through military action alone. Instead, he called for a long-term campaign against poverty and inequities in today's world.

The St. Petersburg forum was organized by the Council of Europe and the inter-parliamentary assembly of the Commonwealth of Independent States, which includes most of the former Soviet countries.

According to the official program, delegates will discuss ways to better share information, to harmonize legislation to fight terrorism, and to crack down on funding for organized crime and terrorist groups.

The forum follows an unprecedented meeting in St. Petersburg earlier this week of some of the world's most powerful intelligence and security services, including the Russian FSB, the American CIA and FBI, the British MI-5, and those from China, Europe, and Central Asia. That gathering was also aimed at better cooperation in the campaign against international terrorism.

Since the September 11 attacks in the United States, security agencies around the world are finding themselves in the forefront of the war against terrorism.

In a message to the gathering, President Putin spoke of terrorism posing an "unprecedented threat", and he warned that no nation, no matter how mighty and powerful, could effectively fight that threat on its own.