The president of the UN General Assembly unveiled a long-awaited UN strategy to combat terrorism, the result of a year of often bitter work to meet world leaders' demands that the world body help its 192 members fight the scourge.
Much of the strategy, distributed on Thursday, repeats previous commitments -- for example, with promises to implement earlier General Assembly and Security Council resolutions. It also makes promises that are ambiguous and difficult to fulfill: to promote the rule of law, dialogue and "a culture of peace"; to meet the Millennium Development Goals; to encourage dialogue between people of different faiths.
Yet there are some nuggets that could prove useful, including a suggestion that the UN and member nations develop a database on "biological incidents" to counter the threat of bio-terror; to take measures to combat terrorism on the Internet; and to clamp down on counterfeiting of travel documents.
With his term as General Assembly president winding down, Sweden's Jan Eliasson urged nations to adopt the resolution yesterday, and they were expected to do so.
"By taking decisive action this week we will be sending a clear signal to the world that we are shouldering our responsibility to act together to fight the scourge of terrorism," Eliasson told the General Assembly on Thursday afternoon.
The issue of a counterterrorism has been highly contentious at the UN because nations have been unable to agree on what exactly constitutes terrorism. Israel and the Palestinians, for example, both accuse each other of terrorist acts.
According to the strategy, nations would also be encouraged to give money to UN counterterrorism assistance projects. Border controls would also be stepped up to prevent terrorists from crossing borders or smuggling weapons such as nuclear weapons across state lines.
Nations would vow to do more to exchange information that could be used to fight terrorism and to "take appropriate measures" to make sure that people seeking asylum have not committed terrorist acts or will not use their new status to do so.
The strategy includes a resolution to "make every effort" to come up with a comprehensive convention on international terrorism. Progress has been stymied over the contentious issue of defining terrorism because one country's terrorists can be another's freedom fighters.
According to the resolution outlining the plan of action, the General Assembly would return in two years to study how effective it had been.
Eliasson acknowledged those difficulties in his speech, saying that the strategy does not attempt either to solve or avoid them.
"We are all aware of the contentious issues that have dogged the terrorism discussion for a long time," he said, adding later: "I can assure you that every word in this resolution and plan of action has been scrutinized and discussed."
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