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UN Security Council Renews Committment to Fight Terrorism - 2002-10-08

The United Nations Security Council Tuesday renewed its commitment to combatting international terrorism and called on all governments to cooperate.

It has been one year since the Security Council, expressing horror at the September 11 attacks on the United States, resolutely determined that the war on terror should be an international effort. At the conclusion of a debate that began last week, the council issued a formal reminder to governments that terrorism cannot be defeated unless every country does its part in crippling financial support for terrorist groups and helping law enforcement authorities apprehend them.

The Security Council, in the wake of the September 11 attacks, adopted a landmark anti-terrorism resolution, resolution 1373, outlining steps and strategies to combat terrorism. It also set up a committee to monitor government actions in support of the resolution.

Britain's U.N. ambassador Jeremy Greenstock, the chairman of the counter-terrorism committee, says a lot has been done in the past year. But he says more is needed to turn rhetoric into action. "Actually taking measures to combat terrorism on the territory of each member state is a requirement of [resolution] 1373," he said.

The Security Council authorized the continuation of its counter-terrorism committee for another six months. There are 174 governments, out of a total U.N. membership of 191, that have thus far reported to the committee on what they have done to combat terrorism.

Diplomats say some countries simply are poorly-equipped to run sophisticated counter-terrorism operations and need assistance from outside governments, such as the United States.

The United Nations has amassed over the years, a legal arsenal of anti-terrorism treaties covering virtually all forms of what are generally considered terrorist activities. But governments still have not agreed on a legal definition of terrorism. The issue is tied up mostly in politics, notably in the Middle East.

"You've got to understand that there is a very big emotional content to all this," said Edward Mortimer, a special advisor to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, "particularly in the Middle East, where the word terrorist and terrorism have been used particularly by Israel for a long time to describe any act of armed resistance against Israelis, whether civilian or military, whether in Israel proper or in occupied territory."

Mr. Mortimer says most people would acknowledge, for example, that the suicide bombings against Israel are terrorist actions. But he says some Arab and Muslim countries are reluctant to use that vocabulary because they feel it is giving a point to the other side.

Still, the U.N. advisor says, given all the political angles to terrorism, the international community seems very committed to eradicating the most obvious forms of it. September 11, 2001, appears to have been a strong catalyst.