Tuesday, November 6, 2001

NEW YORK The United Nations yesterday answered taunts from Osama bin Laden with a vow that the organization and its member nations would continue to strive for tolerance and mutual respect.
On Saturday, bin Laden released a videotaped statement mocking the United Nations as an American-dominated “tool of crime” that created the state of Israel and did not prevent attacks against Muslims in Kashmir and Indonesia.
“We have suffered because of this United Nations, so no Muslim should resort to it under any circumstance,” bin Laden said in a statement broadcast by the satellite network Al Jazeera.
“The United Nations is a tool of crime. We [Muslims] are being slaughtered every day and it does not move.”
U.N. officials rejected the statement, as well as fears that bin Laden the suspected mastermind of the September 11 attacks had ordered a strike on the organization.
“The United Nations is the expression of all its members, and does not represent any particular culture or the views of any [individual] member states,” said deputy U.N. spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva.
He said Secretary-General Kofi Annan “hoped that Muslims and other peoples of the world would not be misled” by bin Laden’s remarks.
The verbal assault on the United Nations came just one week before the opening of the annual General Assembly debate, which was expected to attract 50 world leaders including President Bush, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and South African President Thabo Mbeke.
The directors of the U.N. security office, who had increased provisions around the building, met yesterday afternoon to discuss security measures for the debate.
Bin Laden, speaking apparently from an Afghan cave, also lashed out at Arab leaders. “Those who claim to be Arab leaders and are still [cooperating] with the United Nations are infidels in the eyes of the message of Muhammad,” he said.
He said that any Muslim leaders who refer issues to international courts have abandoned Islamic law.
Many of those Arab leaders have denounced the speech. “I think there is a war between [bin Laden] and the rest of the world,” said Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher.
The U.N. headquarters has long been a beacon for demonstrations claiming various oppressions and injustices. While some of those demonstrations have become unruly over the years, the 39-story building has never been the target of a terrorist attack.
U.N. security officials will not comment publicly on specific measures concerning the building or Mr. Annan.
However, they said they probably would adopt restrictions and screening methods for the General Assembly debate similar to those used during last year’s Millennium Summit, which was attended by more than 140 world leaders and closed streets all along Manhattan’s east side.
During such politically charged events, the U.N. building is closed to the public. Sharpshooters are plainly visible on First Avenue rooftops, and police helicopters patrol the airspace over the U.N. compound. Blinds are erected at the portico and pedestrian doors so that potential assassins don’t have a clear shot at arriving or departing leaders.
Security has been noticeably increased since September 11. Bomb-sniffing dogs can be seen around the headquarters building at the end of most workdays.
An official said a private contractor now supplies the dogs year-round, instead of just during the General Assembly session.
New York Police Department boats and U.S. Coast Guard cruisers are anchored in the East River, where they have prevented most boat traffic from trawling past the six waterfront blocks of the U.N. compound.
Garbage barges, which normally pass the U.N. building at regular intervals from morning to late afternoon, are being rerouted because they cannot be searched properly.

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