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In Madrid, Annan Calls for a Global Drive Against Terrorism

Times Staff Writer

In a bid to reinvigorate the U.N.'s role in international security, Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Thursday proposed a global treaty against terrorism at a summit in Madrid.

In a keynote speech, Annan called terrorism an attack on the U.N.'s “core values” and said the world body must be at the forefront of the battle against it.

Annan made his remarks at the world terrorism conference marking the first anniversary of the Madrid train bombings that took 191 lives.

He declared that human rights and the rule of law must be respected in the fight against terrorism, a remark that some present saw as a criticism of the United States’ treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

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“We cannot compromise on the core values,” he said. “If we sacrifice them in our response, we will be handing victory to the terrorists.”

But Annan also lauded American efforts to stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction, such as the Proliferation Security Initiative. The program to interdict weapons traffickers is the brainchild of John R. Bolton, President Bush’s controversial candidate for U.S. ambassador to the U.N.

Annan’s speech launched a campaign to transform the United Nations into an institution that can handle the threats posed by rogue groups such as Al Qaeda while remaining the most relevant forum for international security decisions.

After the U.S. led the invasion of Iraq in 2003 without the Security Council’s blessing, Annan commissioned a panel to propose ways to modernize the 60-year-old institution. He will issue his own recommendations distilled from the panel’s report at the end of the month, with the hope that governments will endorse them at a U.N. summit in September.

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The speech also offered Annan, beleaguered by scandals and attacks on his leadership from outside and within the organization, a chance to act as a world leader.

At the top of the U.N.'s agenda is an international treaty outlawing terrorism, Annan said, and the world must stop wrangling over the definition of the term and start fighting the threat. A comprehensive convention against terrorism has been stalled by governments’ disagreement on who should be considered a terrorist. Some states want to exempt so-called freedom fighters and people resisting occupation, for example.

Annan attempted to cut through the debate by endorsing the view that terrorism is any action intended to cause death or serious harm to civilians with the purpose of intimidation.

“I believe this proposal has clear moral force, and I strongly urge world leaders to unite behind it,” he said.

During a discussion, Amr Moussa, leader of the Arab League and a member of the U.N. panel commissioned by Annan, did not reject the definition but argued for a greater focus on the root causes of extremist violence, such as poverty, injustice and occupation.

Annan offered “five Ds” in the campaign against terrorism: Dissuade disaffected groups from using terrorism to achieve their goals, deny terrorists the means to carry out their attacks, deter states from supporting terrorists, develop prevention strategies and defend human rights in the struggle against terrorism.

He warned that the U.N. would be tough on terrorists and those who harbored them.

“All states must know that if they give any kind of support to terrorists, the [Security] Council will not hesitate to use coercive measures against them,” Annan said.

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