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UN Plays Critical Anti-Terrorist Role, Says British UN Ambassador - 2002-06-19

Britain's U.N. ambassador says the United Nations is playing a critical role in the war on terrorism. Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock chairs the U.N. Security Council committee on counter-terrorism. The diplomat sees growing cooperation among U.N. member nations on the issue.

The Security Council established the 15-member committee on September 28, shortly after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Mr. Greenstock says more than 150 of the 190 U.N. member nations have submitted reports that outline their strengths and shortcomings in relation to U.N. resolutions on terrorism.

He says a number have some way to go in improving their legal systems. "They have murder as a crime, obviously, on their statute books, but not international terrorism or conspiring to support terrorism or to act as a terrorist, or to collect money for terrorists, or to give haven or arms to terrorists." he said. "These are all international crimes now. There are U.N. conventions covering all of them, including hijacking and other forms of terrorist activity. And it is new to many governments. So we are into new areas here, I think, in a very effective way."

The diplomat says the United Nations is doing more than building consensus. It has taken action in crisis spots like Afghanistan, where a U.N.-brokered transitional administration has been put in place by the Afghan people.

But Mr. Greenstock said in places, a United States role is indispensable. He says that is true in the Middle East, where he says, the Israeli army has the Palestinians locked in what he calls a 'bear hug.' "The dilemma is this: that if the Israeli defense force relaxes that security, then there is a wave of suicide bombers ready to come out with bombs already made from bomb factories they have not yet found," said Jeremy Greenstock." It will happen in dozens of incidents, rather than one or two per week. If they do not relax that security control, many Palestinians will almost literally starve to death because there is no economic activity."

In that case, says Mr. Greenstock, resentment in the Arab and Islamic world will reach a boiling point. The diplomat says he looks forward to President Bush's expected speech on the Middle East, in which the president will outline a new peace strategy.

Mr. Greenstock says the United States and Britain face a common threat with Iraq, which he says is known to possess weapons of mass destruction. Moreover, he notes, Iraq refuses to comply with U.N. resolutions to open itself to international weapons inspectors. "We can take action in self-defense, but Iraq threatens more than just the national territories of the U.S. and UK," he said. "And therefore, there is a regional and a global reason for taking action against Iraq, which we want the U.N. to recognize. So, the United Nations is pursuing Iraq to make it comply, once and for all, with the resolutions that have been there since 1991."

The diplomat cautions that a U.S.-led attack against Iraq could lead to unwanted results, including an upswing in terrorism and increased instability in the Middle East. He says leaders of the United States and Britain are now evaluating their options, as are United Nations officials.

The British diplomat says international consensus on terrorism is vital. He says protecting 95 percent of the world is not enough if the other five percent can foster, protect, supply and finance terrorists.