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G-8 Pledges to Strengthen Fight Against Terrorism - 2003-05-05

Finance and interior ministers from the Group of Eight industrialized countries meeting in Paris Monday agreed to strengthen cooperation in combating terrorism and other international crimes. The ministers are also working to develop high-tech identity papers of the future.

The United States has set an October 2004 deadline to develop a state-of-the-art passport, fitted with an identification system to cut down on fraud. Other members of the Group of Seven, plus Russia, are working to develop similar high-tech identity mechanisms. British Home Secretary David Blunkett told a news conference speed is important in developing common identification techniques.

"We do need to know where we are going, because otherwise the imposition of new surveillance techniques and new requirements, including by the United States, will actually have a detrimental affects on the speed of travel, on trade and commercial arrangements and not just on holiday travel arrangements of individuals," Mr. Blunkett said.

The day-long ministerial meeting comes ahead of a June G-8 summit in Evian, France. Besides document identification, the ministers agreed to increase cooperation in the fight against child pornography and money laundering, among other international crimes. French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy said the group aims to help thwart future terrorist attacks.

Future terrorism remains a very real threat, minister Sarkozy says, and no G-8 member will be lowering its guard anytime soon.

U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft was among those attending the Paris meeting, as the first member of President Bush's cabinet to visit France since the Iraq war. France's adamant opposition to the war has cooled relations with Washington, but French officials said Monday's meeting went well.

Mr. Ashcroft was also meeting French Justice Minister Dominique Perben to discuss the status of six French nationals imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay. They are among some 600 Taleban and al-Qaida suspects detained there without trial since the war in Afghanistan. Mr. Ashcroft travels Tuesday to Lyon, France, for another meeting on the looting of Iraqi artifacts during the latest conflict in Iraq.