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Central European Initiative Pledges Cooperation in Fight Against Terrorism - 2001-11-23

Government leaders from 17 central European countries have pledged to increase cooperation in the fight against terrorism. The decision was included in the final declaration of the summit of the so-called Central European Initiative held in the northeastern Italian port city of Trieste.

In the final declaration, the 17 member nations of the Central European Initiative said they would cooperate to fight terrorism. They said they would ensure that those responsible for the "barbaric" attacks carried out on September 11, as well as their sponsors and accomplices, are brought to justice.

The talks, which began Wednesday, were held under tight security in the port city of Trieste.

The delegates said that regional cooperation and the integration of all countries "in an international community based on security, prosperity and development are necessary conditions to defeat terrorism."

They stressed the need to combat and eradicate terrorism, like every other racist and xenophobic trend, and said they rejected any connection between terrorism and the Muslim world.

At the end of the summit, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi declared that Europe must not "expand, but reassemble." He said Europe "must heal the wound of communism, which for so many years kept nations on the other side of the Iron Curtain."

Mr. Berlusconi expressed the belief, which he said was shared by British Prime Minister Tony Blair, that in a few years "we will have a Europe which will also include Russia." He said, "The Cold War is now behind us, and the world has changed."

The final document at the conclusion of the Trieste conference also focussed on the situation in the Balkans.

The 17 member nations welcomed the constitutional changes carried out in Macedonia.

They also urged that what they called efficient measures be used to ensure the return of displaced people to their homes. They strongly condemned all efforts to use violence to attain political objectives and reiterated their commitment to strengthen international support, including organizing a conference of donor nations.

The legislative elections held in Kosovo on November 17, where supporters of moderate ethnic Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova emerged victorious, were termed "an important step in the realization of a democratic and multi-ethnic society."

In addition to the final declaration, the countries of the Central European Initiative approved a plan for the years 2002 and 2003. It includes strengthening regional co-operation in the fight against terrorism, increasing efforts to promote political stability in the Balkans, and enhancing the integration of central and eastern European countries with the European Union.