The U.N. Security Council has adopted a Russian-sponsored resolution seeking to strengthen the international effort against terrorists. The vote was unanimous, but the effect of the measure remains vague.
Russia proposed the resolution last month after the country was shaken by two airplane bombings and the Beslan school siege. Its stated aim is to step up the war on terrorism by expanding its scope beyond al-Qaida and the Taleban, which are covered by existing resolutions.
The original draft was toughly worded, raising alarm bells in Arab and Islamic states. Ambassadors from Security Council members Pakistan and Algeria were among those who worried that the resolution could be interpreted as outlawing legitimate freedom struggles.
They noted that the measure recommended establishment of a U.N. terrorism list of individuals and entities that could have been subject to sanctions similar to those imposed on al-Qaida and the Taleban.
The resolution adopted Friday was softened during days of negotiation. The terrorism list idea will be assigned to a committee for further study. Language that sought an open-ended definition of terrorism has been modified. It now calls on states to deny safe haven and bring to justice anyone participating in the financing, planning, preparation or commission of terrorism of acts.
In the end, Algerian and Pakistani representatives dropped their objections to the resolution. Turkey's ambassador Umit Pamir, representing the Organization of Islamic Conference, made a rare appearance before the council to add a statement of approval.
"We had serious misgivings with regard to the language in the previous text which had raised a number of important questions, especially insofar as resistance to foreign occupation and alien domination are concerned," said Umit Pamir. "Now, following intense consultations with members of the Council. I am happy to say we have in hand a draft resolution which has much wider support of the international community."
Despite the resolution's softer language, Russia's ambassador Andrey Denisov hailed it as a step forward in the fight against global terrorism. He said it broadens the scope of anti-terror activities, and provides a road map leading to establishment of a terrorist blacklist.
"It is clear that terror goes beyond al-Qaida and Taleban, which were covered by existing measures, lists, conventions, documents," said Andrey Denisov. "That is why I want to draw your attention to drawing up working group among the Security Council to enlarge the scope of anti-terror activities, including possibility drawing up an appropriate list of terrorist entities."
U.S. Ambassador John Danforth said he expects passage of the resolution to set in motion a process by which an expanded terrorist list would be created. After casting the U.S. vote in favor of the measure, he hailed it as a clear expression of the principle that any targeting of civilians, regardless of the motive, is criminal.
"Supporters of the murder of civilians sometimes say that these are justifiable acts of national liberation or of self-determination," said John Danforth. "Some claim that exploding bombs in the midst of children is in the service of God. That is the ultimate blasphemy. The most significant paragraph, in the resolution before us, states quite clearly, that the intentional targeting of civilians for death or serious bodily injury are criminal and never justifiable."
Security Council diplomats said the unanimous approval of the anti-terrorism measure could be viewed as a statement of frustration at the recent surge in political violence. Ambassadors at the council table specifically mentioned the beheading of a British hostage in Iraq, as well as attacks in the last few days in Egypt, France and Pakistan, along with the school siege in southern Russia last month that left more than 300 people dead, 170 of them children.