Israeli and Arab diplomats feuded on the UN General Assembly floor on Friday after the UN approved a largely symbolic global plan to combat terrorism three days before the fifth anniversary of the attacks on the US on Sept. 11, 2001.
The counter-terrorism "plan of action," approved by the 192-nation assembly without a formal vote, laid out eight pages of broad goals and measures to prevent terrorist acts, address the conditions that may foster terrorism and help nations build up their capabilities while respecting human rights.
But nine counties, mostly Arab nations, took the floor after its adoption to complain that it did not address Israeli actions in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories.
Nor did it shield groups such as the Palestinians from being tagged as terrorists for pursuing "national liberation movements," the envoys said.
That prompted Israeli criticism of Iran and Syria for failing to crack down on attacks against the Jewish state.
Adoption of the counter-terrorism strategy followed a year of wrangling over the plan's details after a world summit in New York directed the UN to prepare a plan.
The issue of a counterterrorism has been highly contentious at the UN because nations have long been unable to agree on what exactly constitutes terrorism. Israel and the Palestinians, for example, both accuse each other of terrorist acts.
In a clear reference to the Israeli-Palestinian stalemate, Syria's UN Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari said the strategy, which is nonbinding, "does not prejudice the right of people for self-determination and the struggle for independence."
The document glossed over some of the controversies that have plagued UN efforts to fight terrorism for years.
UN members thought they had figured out a way around one impasse when Secretary-General Kofi Annan suggested, in place of a formal definition of terrorism, a simple statement branding as terrorism any intentional maiming or killing of civilians, regardless of its motives.
"I think it is the first time that 192 countries have come together and taken a stand on the issue of terrorism, and now the test will be how we implement it," Annan said.
While members agreed to the plan's adoption, the barbs began flying when delegates were given the chance to comment.
"It is an extremely sensitive subject, a very emotional issue, and rightly so," General Assembly President Jan Eliasson told reporters following the bitter exchanges.
"But since this is a global menace, we must have a global approach," he said.
Annan, for his part, called the plan a "historic achievement" and urged nations to honor "the victims of terrorism everywhere by taking swift action to implement all aspects of the strategy."
Assembly resolutions are not binding under international law but are significant because they express the will of nations around the world.
The plan urges nations to crack down on terrorists' use of the Internet, adopt laws prohibiting incitement to commit a terrorist act and grant asylum only after checking whether applicants have engaged in terrorist acts.
It also backs greater efforts to improve the security of national identity and travel documents, improve border and customs controls and better coordinate planning for responses to attacks with nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.
Numerous provisions aim to ensure that human rights are not sacrificed in the pursuit of terrorists and that the root causes of terrorism are addressed.