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UN drafters fail to end terrorism treaty impasse

Written by: Staff

United Nations, Mar 4: United Nations (UN) treaty writers failed again this week to resolve differences over a long-stalled comprehensive anti-terrorism treaty despite UN leaders' pleas to complete it as quickly as possible.

The drafters, members of a working group of the UN General Assembly's treaty-writing legal committee, ended their latest weeklong meeting without agreeing even on when they would next meet.

Despite the lack of progress, diplomats involved in the talks said success was still possible.

''There was no breakthrough but some delegations showed a strong resolve to continue the process,'' said a key negotiator, speaking on condition of anonymity. ''We still hope to finalize a text, but it is not going to be easy.'' The comprehensive convention would give nations new tools and a legal framework to fight terrorism by tying together existing agreements dealing with such aspects of the problem as money laundering and biological and chemical weapons.

All 191 UN members have a seat on the working group. The assembly has instructed it to complete a draft by September 12, the end of the current assembly session.

But following a wave of deadly attacks last year, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and General Assembly President Jan Eliasson pressed negotiators to complete their work before the end of 2005. The United States has also pushed hard for the pact as part of its global war on terrorism.

While 13 global treaties already target various aspects of terrorism, the draft ''comprehensive convention on international terrorism'' has been stalled since 1996 by disputes over the treaty's breadth and how to define terrorism.

The working group has at this point largely agreed to adopt a definition put forward by Annan.

In place of a legalistic approach, Annan suggested a simple statement branding as terrorism any intentional maiming or killing of civilians, regardless of its motives.

The dispute over the treaty's scope centers mainly on how to treat Palestinian suicide bombings and Israeli military actions in the Palestinian West Bank and Gaza.

Arab states argue the convention should recognize the right of national liberation movements, such as the Palestinians, to launch attacks as part of a fight against foreign occupation.

A draft text put forward by the negotiation coordinators would exclude actions of a sovereign nation's armed forces from the treaty's scope.


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