Annan hopes U.N. will approve comprehensive treaty against terrorism in the next month

Thursday, January 24th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

UNITED NATIONS (AP) _ Secretary-General Kofi Annan hopes the 189 U.N. member states will approve a comprehensive treaty against terrorism ``in the next month or so.'' But one obstacle remains: defining who's a terrorist.

The General Assembly's legal committee came close to an agreement in November, and is to resume negotiations Monday.

A comprehensive treaty would incorporate key elements from a dozen anti-terrorism measures already on the books and hopefully would raise worldwide standards for fighting terrorism, diplomats said.

For decades, however, defining terrorism has seemed an insurmountable hurdle.

The United States, the European Union and many other countries agreed to a compromise definition proposed by Australia last fall. But the 56-member Organization of the Islamic Conference rejected it because it did not exempt national liberation movements fighting foreign occupation.

Syria, Lebanon and others argue, for example, that resistance by the Palestinians against Israeli occupation is legal. Pakistan also has supported Islamic militants fighting to liberate the disputed territory of Kashmir from Indian rule.

The United States hopes the recent tension between India and Pakistan and statements by Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf against terrorism and terrorist groups would have a positive impact, a U.S. official said Wednesday speaking on condition of anonymity.

Annan, who urged all countries to back the Australian compromise last fall, is hoping for a quick agreement. He reiterated that Wednesday in Bangkok, Thailand, as he outlined the U.N. role in the fight against terrorism following the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.

The draft comprehensive treaty, first proposed by India several years ago, defines terrorism as specific acts causing death, injury or serious damage that are designed to intimidate people or compel governments or international organization to take action _ ``or abstain from doing any act,'' the U.S. official said.

But Islamic nations wanted the definition modified to exempt acts against foreign occupation and to address Israeli army acts against the Palestinians, which they call ``state terrorism,'' the U.S. official said.

The United States, Russia, China and other nations argued that military forces are governed by laws of war and shouldn't be covered in the comprehensive treaty, the official said.

The Australian compromise would provide protection for the armed forces that the Americans and others wanted. It also would state that nothing in the convention would affect other rights, responsibilities and obligations under international law _ including ``the responsibility of states, peoples, individuals.''