- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 11, 2001

NEW YORK World leaders yesterday agreed with President Bush that terrorism is murder and its perpetrators must be stopped, but remarks at the opening day of the U.N. general debate revealed little consensus on what terrorism is, nor how to stop it.
Many of the two dozen presidents and prime ministers who spoke yesterday clearly linked the fight against terrorism to Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories.
"The world faces an intensive and severe genre of terrorism in the Middle East," said Iranian President Mohammed Khatami. "Occupation of the Palestinian territories, Syrian Golan, and expulsion of the Palestinian people from their homeland, the judiazation of Palestine and in particular [Jerusalem]." He also condemned "the building of illegal settlements [and] the killing and terrorizing of defenseless Palestinian civilians in their homes and cities."
Many speakers criticized the U.S.-led strikes against Afghanistan and urged industrialized democracies to consider hunger and hopelessness rather than ethnic or religious hatred as the root causes of terrorism.
"Poverty and deprivation lead to frustration, making the masses vulnerable to exploitation by extremist organizations," warned Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. "It is the collective moral responsibility of the developed world to address this issue squarely."
The week-long debate is the largest gathering of world leaders since the September 11 terrorist attacks that flattened the World Trade Center, just two miles south of the U.N. building. The structure was heavily secured yesterday against a possible attack by al Qaeda or its sympathizers.
All the speakers at the U.N. session unequivocally condemned the attacks, which claimed about 5,000 lives and dealt a heavy blow to an already sputtering global economy. But many also cautioned against allowing the investigation and punishment of the perpetrators to turn into an attack on Islam or Arabs.
"It is now necessary to stand up firmly against all forms of harassment against Arab and Muslim communities in any country under the pretext of combating terrorism and the pursuit of terrorists," said Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Thani, the emir of Qatar, on behalf of the 56-member Organization of the Islamic Conference.
Mr. Bush said yesterday that there are good causes and bad causes, and no such thing as a good terrorist. But many disagreed.
"It is high time to put an end to the tragedy of the Palestinian people at the hands of the Israeli occupation forces," said Mr. Thani.
South Africa, Qatar, Venezuela, Pakistan and many others called attention to the condition of the Palestinian people, but Iran was the most outspoken critic of Israel's policies. The situation in the Middle East will have a direct impact on any multilateral anti-terrorism efforts, such as international treaties to suppress terrorism or cut off support.
Arab and Islamic nations which represent more than a third of U.N. membership have demanded that any definition of terrorism exempt acts committed against illegal occupation.
The Israeli bench was empty yesterday, in observance of the Sabbath, according to an Israeli official.
But Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was in the chambers, and appeared to listen intently to Mr. Bush, leaning forward and propping his chin in his palms.
Earlier this month, the Palestinians had hoped to meet with Mr. Bush on the sidelines of the conference, but U.S. officials said the president had declined the request, stating Mr. Arafat had not done enough to apprehend terrorists in his territory. Instead, Mr. Bush met with the leaders of Croatia, Madagascar, Uganda and Kenya. He also is scheduled to attend a memorial breakfast today for the victims of September 11.
Gen. Musharraf, Washington's newest ally, spoke of unresolved conflicts in Kashmir, Kosovo, Bosnia and Palestine.
"Unfortunately, all these disputes involve Muslims, and more sadly, the Muslims happen to be the victims which tends to give a religious tinge to these otherwise political disputes."
In his opening remarks at the 56th general debate, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan cautioned governments against getting so swept up in the fight against terrorism that they forget the world's disadvantaged, sick and displaced.
"Let us remember that none of the issues that faced us on Sept. 10th have become less urgent," he said. "The number of people living on less than $1 a day has not decreased."
Nor, he added, are fewer people living with hunger, dying of preventable diseases, or displaced by war since the "horrific attacks."


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