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US Cites  7 Countries Sponsoring Terrorism - 2002-05-21

The U.S. State Department has issued its report on global terrorism for 2001, which was the deadliest year ever for terrorist violence because of the September 11 attacks in the United States. It again lists seven countries as state sponsors of terrorism.

The more than 3,500, the vast majority of them in New York and Washington, were the most in the 22-year history of the U.S. terrorism reports. But briefing reporters, Secretary of State Colin Powell stressed the progress the United States and its coalition partners have made against al-Qaida and other terrorist groups since the September attacks, and said no country can afford to shirk its duty in the fight against them.

"Terrorists respect no limits, geographic or moral. The front-lines are everywhere and the stakes are high. Terrorism not only kills people, it also threatens democratic institutions, undermines economies and destabilizes regions," Secretary Powell said. "In this global campaign against terrorism, no country, no nation has the luxury of remaining on the sidelines, because there are no sidelines."

The report again cited seven countries, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Iraq, Syria, North Korea and Cuba, as state sponsors of terrorism, a list that has not changed since 1993. It said Iran remained the "most active" terrorist sponsor, providing aid to the Lebanese Hezbollah and to Palestinian factions that use terror tactics against Israel.

At the same time, it acknowledged that Sudan and Libya have taken actions that eventually could take them off the list. It noted Libyan leader Muammar Gadafi's condemnation of the September 11 attacks and says his government "appears to have curtailed" its support for international terrorism, though it may have "residual contacts" with some groups.

The document says Sudan has stepped up counter-terrorism cooperation with the United States, yet it was kept on the list because "a number of" Egyptian, Palestinian and other terrorist groups continue to use Sudan as a safe-haven.

In the case of Cuba, the report said President Fidel Castro has "vacillated" over the war on terror, on the one hand signing U.N. anti-terrorism conventions but also condemning the U.S.-led military drive in Afghanistan as worse than the terror attacks which provoked it.

At a State Department news conference, anti-terrorism coordinator Francis X. Taylor said Cuba continues to shelter suspects in past terrorist acts, and rejected the notion that listing Cuba is a matter of U.S. election politics:

"President Castro did condemn the events of 11 September, but has since not renounced at all terrorism as a legitimate political tool in the revolution. He also continues to allow members of the FARC [of Colombia], ETA [of Spain], and indeed eight Americans who were involved in terrorist activities in the '70s and '80s in our country to remain as guests of the Cuban government. For that reason, and the fact that it has not renounced its commitment to terrorism, it remains on the list. It's not just for political reasons."

Mr. Taylor said North Korea, similarly, continues to shelter members of the Japanese Red Army terrorist group active in the 1970s.

The State Department official said an estimated 1,600 members of al-Qaida are now in detention around the world, but also that as many as 30-thousand operatives may have been trained over the years at its camps in Afghanistan.

Mr. Taylor said al-Qaida has not been defeated and that further anti-U.S. attacks by the group are "very, very likely."