- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 24, 2005

NEW YORK — British diplomats are putting pressure on the United Nations to make good on a promise to devise an unequivocal definition and condemnation of terrorism.

The diplomats’ demands, given fresh impetus by the London bombings, reflect fears that the world body may not honor the promise, part of a reform movement prompted by the oil-for-food scandal and political anger in Washington.

Mark Malloch Brown, the U.N. chief of staff and No. 2 to Secretary-General Kofi Annan, supervised talks last week on anti-terror plans that were acceptable to all members.

“We are talking about work at the highest level on this because we all know that this is crunch time for the U.N.,” said one diplomat. “We are looking for a relaunch or bust, and there cannot be a relaunch without real progress on the terrorism issue.”

Any failure to agree on a definition would feed into skepticism about the United Nations among conservative members of the U.S. Congress, who already are conducting several probes into the Iraq oil-for-food scandal.

Investigators into the scandal now say they have discovered a network of overseas bank accounts operated by Benon Sevan, the former head of the U.N. program, who is the subject of a criminal inquiry by New York prosecutors.

Officials from investigative agencies, including the U.N. inquiry headed by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, say Mr. Sevan has accounts in his native Cyprus, Turkey and Switzerland.

International efforts to write a global anti-terror treaty have been at an impasse since 1996, bogged down in the U.N. legal committee as member states wrangle over the definition of terrorism. The committee will hold a new round of informal negotiations this week to move the pact forward.

Even though Mr. Annan had pledged that the reforms, due to emerge from a U.N. summit this fall, would include a “no-excuses” definition of terrorism, new doubts arose after delegates from Middle Eastern and Islamic countries began to demand compromises.

Western countries that are habitual targets of terrorists sought a definition that would make it clear that none of the 191 U.N. member countries could endorse or condone attacks on civilians or non-combatants.

Mr. Annan has said that he has “not given up hope” that the United Nations will be able to define terrorism. “I think a clear, simple definition that gets across the message that the killing of innocent civilians or non-combatants, regardless of one’s cause, is terrorism pure and simple, will suffice,” he said.

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