Sat, Mar 23, 2002 - Page 1 News List

Leaders warn terrorism linked to poverty

AP , MONTERREY, MEXICO

Riot police stand at attention near a protest march outside the UN International Conference on Financing for Development in Monterrey, Mexico, Thursday.

PHOTO: AP

Leaders of poor nations warned their rich counterparts that if they want a world free of terrorism, they will need to pay for it. Drawing a direct link between poverty and violence, leaders at a UN summit said increased aid to the world's neediest is more urgent than ever in the post-Sept. 11 world.

The leaders at the UN International Conference on Financing for Development, who have been discussing ways to narrow the gap between the haves and the have-nots, warned that the world's security depends on bringing relief to the desperately poor.

"In the wake of Sept. 11, we will forcefully demand that development, peace and security are inseparable," said Han Seung-soo, president of the UN General Assembly. He said the world's poorest areas are "the breeding ground for violence and despair."

Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo, looking weary hours after a car bomb killed nine people in his country's capital, also linked poverty to violence.

"To speak of development is to speak also of a strong and determined fight against terrorism," he said before returning home.

US President George W. Bush arrived in Monterrey on Thursday and was scheduled to address the summit yesterday morning before the leaders -- some 50 in all -- approve a consensus that urges rich nations to increase development aid and poor nations to use the funds more efficiently.

The leaders also were scheduled to hold a private retreat at an art museum in this modern, industrialized city in northern Mexico.

While both the US and Europe have promised billions of dollars more in aid in coming years, their pledges fall far short of the US$100 billion a year the UN has said is needed to cut poverty in half by 2015.

Cuban President Fidel Castro attacked rich nations for demanding that their poor counterparts meet conditions, such as fighting corruption, to receive aid.

"You can't blame this tragedy on the poor countries. It wasn't they who conquered and looted entire continents for centuries, nor did they establish colonialism, nor did they reintroduce slavery, nor did they create modern imperialism," he said. "They were its victims."

Castro left shortly after his speech -- and hours before the arrival of Bush -- citing "a special situation created by my participation in this summit."

He didn't elaborate, but Ricardo Alarcon, president of Cuba's National Assembly, later said that Castro left because of "a situation that for a self-respecting country like Cuba, was unacceptable," but wouldn't elaborate further.

According to a US official who spoke on condition of anonymity, the US delegation had been instructed to leave the designated US seat when it was Castro's turn to speak, and they did. It was unclear whether that was what had offended Castro.

Most participants agreed the biggest achievement of the summit was getting international leaders, business leaders and activists together to talk about combatting poverty.

Anti-globalization protesters, who have held small marches throughout the week, held their largest demonstration Thursday. About 2,000 protesters massed in front of a police barricade a few blocks from the conference, where they burned an Uncle Sam effigy and hurled dead goats, which they said died from toxic waste from a nearby factory, over the barricades.

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