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Conference Marks 50th Anniversary of India's Parliament - 2003-01-22

India has called on democracies in the world to unite in the fight against terrorism. Lawmakers from 85 countries are attending a conference in New Delhi to commemorate the 50th anniversary of India's Parliament.

The three-day conference here in the capital of the world's largest democracy has been billed as a meeting to consolidate democracy, and fight the world's latest enemy: terrorism.

Indian President APJ Abdul Kalam told delegates that war cannot end terrorism. Instead, he said, sharing global resources to provide jobs, education and better lives for the poor and frustrated people will help fight the menace.

Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee stressed that democracies have a responsibility to help fulfill people's aspirations and resolve contentious issues. He said democratic nations are well-equipped to do this since they have a governing system that allows for opposition without hatred or violence. Mr. Vajpayee asked lawmakers to find innovative ways to jointly fight terrorism.

"How can parliamentarians strengthen mutual cooperation in the fight against terrorism and extremism, which have become a big threat to peace, democracy and civilized world order?" Mr. Vajpayee asked.

Nearly 170 lawmakers have gathered at New Delhi's red sandstone parliament building, which came under a deadly armed attack a little over a year ago.

Terrorism tops the agenda at the meeting, but delegates are also discussing how parliaments can be a vehicle for social change.

Britain, Australia, China, France, Russia and Germany are among the countries represented here.

New Delhi did not invite rival Pakistan, which India accuses of being behind the attack on its Parliament, saying it only called countries with genuine parliamentary democracies to attend the conference.

But Iraq is represented by its speaker, Saadun Hammadi. He is expected to meet top Indian political leaders. New Delhi has opposed military action against Iraq, and called for a peaceful resolution of the Iraq crisis.