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Experts from 40 Countries Meet on Terrorism in Russia - 2002-03-25

Representatives from intelligence and security services from close to 40 countries are meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia, to discuss how to combat international terrorism.

They do not usually all sit down together at one table and share information. But that is what is happening in St. Petersburg.

More than 100 representatives from intelligence and security services from nearly 40 nations have gathered to discuss how best to cooperate in the fight against terrorism.

Among those taking part are the Russian Federal Security Service, the FSB, the American CIA and FBI, the British MI5, and members from intelligence services of China, and nations in Europe and Central Asia.

In opening remarks to the gathering, FSB Director Nikolai Patrushev said the forum opens a new chapter in relations between secret services. Since the September terrorist attacks in the United States, security services around the world are finding themselves on the front line in combating the often shadowy world of international terrorism.

The goal of the St. Petersburg meeting is to open the door to greater sharing of information and cooperation in the anti-terrorist campaign.

In a message to the gathering, Russian President Vladimir Putin said terrorism posed an "unprecedented threat" to world society. He warned that no nation, no matter how powerful, could hope to effectively fight that threat on its own.

President Putin was quick to endorse the U.S.-led campaign against terrorism and offered Russia's assistance. He supported the campaign in Afghanistan and even the positioning of American forces in some Central Asian nations.

But Mr. Putin and other world leaders are concerned the United States might broaden its anti-terrorism campaign unilaterally. In particular, many are concerned about a possible U.S. attack against Iraq. Mr. Putin has repeatedly said the war against terrorism must be part of a global approach involving many nations.

Many of the participants in the St. Petersburg forum will stay on to take part in a broader, interparliamentary conference on terrorism. That meeting is to begin Wednesday and is organized by the Council of Europe and the interparliamentary assembly of the Commonwealth of Independent States, which includes most of the countries of the former Soviet Union.