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UN Urged to Strengthen Counter-Terrorism Efforts

The U.N. Security Council is being urged to strengthen the global counter-terrorism campaign following the London bomb attacks. U.S. and British representatives told the Council many nations are not doing enough to fight the terrorist threat.

Three Security Council committees reported progress Wednesday in their joint effort to enlist all countries, big and small, in counter-terrorism activities. What they heard in return were calls to redouble their efforts.

Britain's U.N. ambassador, Emyr Jones-Parry, said recent events in his country, as well as in Turkey and across the Middle East serve as a tragic reminder of the global security challenge. He said condemnation of such acts must be unequivocal.

"Our message has been clear. Terrorists who seek to use violence to impose their views will not succeed," he said.

As he entered the Council chamber, Ambassador Jones-Parry told reporters, "it would fly in the face of experience to say we're all doing as much as we can."

The three committees charged with counter-terrorism work told the Council of difficult challenges ahead. The chairman of the al-Qaida-Taleban Sanctions Committee, Argentine ambassador, Cesar Mayoral, said the threat from Osama bin Laden's organization is radically different from what it was when sanctions were first imposed.

Danish Ambassador Ellen Margrethe Loj of the Counter Terrorism Committee said many countries are having trouble complying with counter-terrorism conventions. Some, mostly smaller countries have little or no capacity to monitor suspected terrorists.

But Nicholas Rostow, general counsel to the U.S. mission at the United Nations, argued that the fight against terrorism must be the top priority for all states.

"Everyone in this room knows that making counter terrorism the top priority is an unpleasant necessity, but they know it is a necessity," said Mr. Rostow.

In a strongly worded speech, Mr. Rostow deplored resistance among some countries to outlawing terrorism in all circumstances, and said there should be no excuse for non-compliance with Security Council mandates.

"States and would-be states have to decide," added Mr. Rostow. "Are they going to take seriously the call to put an end to terrorism? Are they going to drain the swamp in which terrorists swim by arresting and prosecuting anyone who commits a terrorist act or supports it? Or are they going to weaken the counter-terrorist front because of some real or imagined potential to create a policy inconsistency with regard to other national priorities."

The Security Council debate came as the United Nations is struggling to come up with a universally accepted definition of terrorism. Secretary-General Kofi Annan is calling for agreement on a definition during a gathering of world leaders at U.N. headquarters in September.

Debate is stalled, however, over disagreements about who should be considered a terrorist. Some states have called for exemptions for those described as freedom fighters or people resisting occupation.

A high-level panel named by Mr. Annan has attempted to cut through the debate. The panel has endorsed the view that terrorism is any action intended to cause death or serious harm to civilians, with the purpose of intimidation.