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RESPONSE TO TERROR

Nations Propose to Fight Terror

U.N.: Most have complied with a demand that they submit their plans to the Security Council. The reports are to stay private.

January 11, 2002|WILLIAM ORME | TIMES STAFF WRITER

UNITED NATIONS — Most governments have complied with a Security Council demand for reports on their plans to combat terrorism, but it will be months before the documents are thoroughly reviewed and the council's responses will be kept confidential, the British diplomat overseeing the process said Thursday.

The Security Council has received 117 of the reports requested from the 189 U.N. member states. At least 40 more countries have indicated they will respond soon, said Jeremy Greenstock, Britain's ambassador to the U.N. and chairman of the Security Council's newly created counter-terror committee.

The response represents "an extremely good start by the historical standards of the U.N.," Greenstock said.

Under terms of the Sept. 28 Security Council resolution calling for the reports, member states were required to respond within 90 days, a deadline that passed two weeks ago. But there are no penalties for noncompliance, though Greenstock said the council "will chase up" delinquents.

"There will probably be a minority of member states that will need some persuasion," he said.

What form that persuasion might take has not yet been made clear, as few of the council's communications will be public. It also isn't clear whether the U.N. has enough money to bankroll an ambitious Security Council plan to tighten the noose around global terrorist networks.

Countries have been asked to provide detailed explanations of their legal controls on fund-raising for terrorist organizations, as well as limitations on the freedom of movement and action of suspected terrorists. Members have also been invited to seek technical assistance in drafting legislation or instituting other measures requested by the council.

"What's clear to us so far is that a lot of members who want to comply are going to need a lot of help, and it is going to take a lot of time and money," said a diplomat on one country's delegation to the Security Council, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Greenstock would not comment Thursday on the substance of the replies received to date.

But he acknowledged that the council's work is hampered by the U.N.'s inability to agree on a definition of terrorism. Many members exclude from that category groups that they consider national liberation movements, among them Palestinian factions fighting against Israel.

Greenstock said most, but not all, council members were ready to embrace a blanket rejection of "the indiscriminate killing of civilians," no matter what the cause.

No countries so far have openly refused to cooperate, council officials say. Some of the first responses came from countries that have been accused by the United States and others of harboring or supporting terrorists, including Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and North Korea.

Syria, a newly elected member of the Security Council, is on the counter-terror committee, which is officially composed of all 15 Security Council members.

To review the reports, the committee has contracted six outside experts, ranging from a Peruvian police commander who helped imprison leaders of the Shining Path movement to an Indian treasury official who tracks international money-laundering schemes. The analysis, which will be distributed privately to the 15 council members, is expected to take at least three months, U.N. officials said.

Acknowledging criticism from human rights groups that hard-line regimes may use the counter-terror campaign to justify internal repression, Greenstock said the committee plans to have human rights specialists review the submitted documents. But he stressed that the committee's mandate is to combat terrorism, not pass judgment on domestic political practices.

"There is a trade-off between security and civil liberties," Greenstock said.

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