Europe pushes for end to death penalty worldwide

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LISBON, Oct 9 (Reuters) European officials today pressed for an increase in diplomatic efforts to abolish the death penalty worldwide, a day before Europe marks its first day against capital punishment.

Officials said at a conference in Lisbon they also wanted European countries to abolish the death penalty in all circumstances, including in times of war.

''Crime cannot be prevented or stopped with death, or with state vengeance, but with justice,'' Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates, whose country currently holds the European Union presidency, said.

The Council of Europe voted in September by 46 to one to make October 10 a European day against the death penalty.

Predominantly Catholic Poland was the only country to oppose the decision, arguing any such event should also condemn abortion and euthanasia.

The European Union has urged the United States to follow its lead on the death penalty. It issued a plea in August to the US state of Texas to halt all executions before it carried out its 400th death sentence to no avail.

The vice-president of the European Commission, Franco Frattini, said negotiations should continue with Poland, so that next year Oct. 10 will not be celebrated just by the Council of Europe, but also the European Union.

''I hope Poland will celebrate tomorrow, if not at government level, at least that the civil society will do it,'' he told reporters.

All European Countries have banned the death penalty under the European Convention on Human Rights. But some have still not signed the convention's protocol on abolishing the death penalty during wartime.

''Our final priority is the death penalty elsewhere in the world,'' Terry Davis, Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, said. ''Some of our closest friends and observers at the Council of Europe continue to execute people.'' REUTERS SG BD1942

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