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Egypt Calls for Anti-Terror Conference - 2001-09-21


Egypt's Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher and U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell spoke by telephone Friday to discuss how to handle any retaliatory action for the suicide attacks in the United States. Egypt is calling for an international conference so that all countries will have the opportunity to commit themselves to the fight against terror.

Egypt's Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher says his country knows first-hand about terrorism. It has been fighting for years against Islamist organizations that seek to topple the Cairo government. He believes a global effort is the most effective way to eradicate terrorism. "In the case of terrorism, if you have a coalition that envelops some countries and not others, excluding others-what would it mean? We believe that an international conference is the ideal solution," he said.

Mr. Maher says such a conference would issue a convention that countries would sign with obligations that would be respected by all. In this way he says, countries would be bound to fight terrorism. Those choosing not to sign, would be viewed as unwilling to abide by international law and pressure could be applied on them to comply with the convention.

Egypt hosted an anti-terrorism conference in 1997 attended by a number of world leaders, including then U.S. President Bill Clinton. Although the conference issued a strongly worded communique, its resolutions were not implemented. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak argues that a conference held under United Nations auspices would draw more participants and show terrorists they no longer have any place to hide.

Egyptian officials have over the years expressed frustration with countries that refuse to extradite Muslim extremists involved in attacks inside Egypt. They say they believe the time has come for serious measures to stamp out terrorism.

Egyptian political analyst Mohamed Sid Ahmed says the United States may not be prepared to participate in a U.N. conference on terrorism at this time, but he says it may decide to later, particularly if military options do not succeed. "You have to take measures of repression in dealing with terrorism," he said. "You have no choice, but you make a fundamental mistake if you only do that. Side by side with that, you must show you are able to bring about fundamental changes in the world system - totally reappraise the world system which breeds terrorism."

Mr. Sid Ahmed says that without a broader approach to global issues, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he believes the world will always be confronted with terrorists.