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UN Secretary-General Discusses Terrorism with Americans - 2001-10-11

In a televised conversation with U.S. citizens, United Nations Secretary- General Kofi Annan discussed terrorism and what the world organization is doing to fight it.

In what was described as a national town meeting, Mr. Annan spoke to people in 10 U.S. cities involved in the live broadcast. It was an opportunity for average citizens to speak directly to the secretary-general about what the United Nations can and should do. The first question, from a man in the city of Denver, Colorado, was about the U.N. attitude toward the current military action in Afghanistan. "Since the military actions began in Afghanistan, both the United States and the United Kingdom, the two countries most actively engaged in this action, wrote to the Security Council explaining their actions in the context of the right to self-defense, as enshrined in the charter. So they gave the council a full briefing on this, and the council seems satisfied," he said.

In answer to a question from Boston, Massachusetts, Mr. Annan pointed out that the United Nations was fighting terrorism long before the September 11 attacks on the United States. "Perhaps, it is our fault that the public does not know too much about what we have been doing," said Kofi Annan. "We have adopted 12 conventions and protocols to fight terrorism. The last one is meant to suppress the financing of terrorism, and, right now, the 189 member states are working on a 13th convention, a comprehensive one, that is meant to make the lives of terrorists even more difficult than the earlier conventions.

Mr. Annan said that as important as it is to fight terrorism, it is also important for the United Nations to maintain its commitment to humanitarian issues. He expressed thanks for the generous response by the United States and other nations to appeals for money to save civilians in Afghanistan from starvation and illness.

The secretary-general took satisfaction from a recent poll in the United States that shows 90 percent believe the United Nations should play a major role in the fight against international terrorism.

After Mr. Annan answered questions from each of the 10 cities, the broadcast shifted to those cities for further discussions involving local political, civic and religious leaders, as well as other U.N. officials.