Thursday, April 29, 2004

Iraq will remain on the U.S. blacklist of state sponsors of terrorism until the country’s new government, which is expected to take office on June 30, renounces terrorist practices, the State Department said yesterday.

Libya will stay on the list, too, despite its pledge to get out of the terrorism business and its cooperation with the United States, because Washington still has concerns about its links with terrorist organizations.

In its annual report on global terrorism, which was released yesterday, the department said 190 international terrorist attacks occurred last year — fewer than in any other year since 1969. That figure, however, did not include the numerous acts of violence against U.S. troops in Iraq.

State Department officials said an attack is considered an act of terrorism only if it targets civilians — or military personnel not engaged in action at the time of the incident — but not active combatants.

“Increasingly, the line between insurgency and terrorism has been blurred by anticoalition attacks that have included suicide car bombings at police stations, an Italian military police base and the headquarters of the International Red Cross,” the report said.

It also said 307 persons around the world, including 35 Americans, were killed in 2003, fewer than half of the 725 who died in terror attacks the previous year.

U.S. officials attributed the smaller number of strikes partly to the close cooperation among almost 100 countries in the U.S.-led fight against terrorism.

“Indeed, you will find in these pages clear evidence that we are prevailing in the fight,” Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said in reference to the report, titled “Patterns of Global Terrorism” and mandated by Congress.

The report showed that attacks against U.S. interests increased slightly to 82 from 77 in 2002, although they remained at a sharply lower level than the 219 attacks in 2001.

Cofer Black, the State Department’s coordinator for counterterrorism, warned that “the very low level of terrorist attacks last year certainly does not mean that the problem is fading away.”

Mr. Black said the United States would not remove Iraq from the blacklist before the new government, which will take over from the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority, “renounces terrorism” and becomes an “effective partner” in the fight against it.

He noted that Libya is another “outstanding issue” and will remain on the list until Washington confirms that it has “no continued association with terrorist groups.”

The other five countries on the list are Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan and Syria.

“Iran remained the most active state sponsor of terrorism in 2003,” the report said. It accused Tehran of failure to keep promises to try al Qaeda members in its custody. It also said Iran’s intelligence and security services supported extremist groups.

The report awarded much praise to Saudi Arabia, where an attack on May 12 killed 26 persons, including nine Americans.

“I would cite Saudi Arabia as an excellent example of a nation increasingly focusing its political will to fight terrorism,” Mr. Black wrote in the report.

Malaysia also received praise for “helping others increase their counterterrorism capabilities while also increasing its own.”

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