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UN Adopts Global Counterterrorism Strategy


The U.N. General Assembly has adopted a global counterterrorism strategy. The measure was approved as the world body's host city begins observances marking the fifth anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks.

The counter terrorism strategy was approved by consensus Friday, after days of intense negotiations, and just days before the end of the 60th General Assembly session.

It does not contain a definition of terrorism, as many had hoped. In its final form, the resolution simply condemns "terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, committed by whomever, wherever and for whatever purposes."

Outgoing General Assembly President Jan Eliasson hailed the strategy, saying it sends a powerful message about the international community's determination to fight a global menace.

At the same time, however, Eliasson, who is also Sweden's foreign minister, acknowledged deep divisions among members on several basic issues. "The text is carefully crafted, and every word is scrutinized, there is no delegation in this room that has gotten all it wanted. Some of you wanted more, some of you wanted less, but this text is in our view balanced," he said.

Several countries had threatened to block consensus on the measure. But in the end, there was no objection.

Afterward, however, several countries formally expressed strong reservations about it. Among them were Cuba, Iran, Venezuela, Pakistan and Syria. Speaking through an interpreter, Syria's U.N. Ambassador Bashar al-Jaafari called the document "unbalanced, with many faults" including a failure to define terrorism or say anything about states that commit terrorist acts.

"We reaffirmed repeatedly, Mr. President, that setting up legal definition of terrorism is a pre-condition to implement such a strategy, particularly by distinguishing between combating terrorism and the legitimate struggle of people under occupation to determine their future, and their struggle to bring about their independence," he said.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan, just back from a grueling Middle East trip, attended Friday's Assembly session to emphasize the importance of the resolution. He acknowledged weaknesses in the strategy, but noted it was a rare moment of unanimity in what has been a contentious struggle.

"I think it is the first time that 192 countries have come together and taken a stand on the issue of terrorism, and now the test will be how we implement it," he said.

Both Mr. Annan and Assembly President Eliasson worked hard for adoption of the strategy document, and its adoption comes shortly before both are due to step down. Coincidentally, it also came days before the fifth anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center, just a few kilometers from U.N. headquarters.

But Eliasson played down any connection between the resolution and the worst terrorist attack in the United States.

"9/11, of course, is a reminder of a huge tragedy that struck the United States, and which affected the whole world, but there are so many acts of terrorism now that it is truly a global scourge, global threat," he said.

He called for strong action not only to combat terrorism, but to look further and deeper, to look at the underlying conditions that create the terrorist phenomenon.