Last update - 10:55 28/02/2008
Ban backs Wiesenthal Center's call for UN session on terror
By The Associated Press
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon supports a General Assembly special session on suicide terror which he calls an unacceptable political weapon, the UN said on Thursday.
Ban told leaders of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, one of the largest Jewish rights organizations who called for the special session, that he would personally present the initiative to General Assembly President Srgjan Kerim, U.N. spokeswoman Michele Montas said.
"The time has come to place suicide terror at the top of the international agenda," Rabbi Marvin Hier, the center's founder and dean, said in a statement Wednesday. "This scourge is only going to get worse, and the world must act before it is too late."
Hier led a delegation from the center that met the UN chief on Tuesday to discuss a special session of the UN General Assembly and express serious concern about next year's follow-up to the 2001 UN World Conference on Racism in Durban, South Africa.
After the December 27 suicide bombing and gun attack that killed former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, the Wiesenthal Center launched an online petition drive calling for the secretary-general to support a special session on suicide terror.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the center's associate dean, said in an interview that the campaign received 6,500 e-mails from 85 countries including Egypt, Turkey and Pakistan calling for a special UN meeting.
With the UN and the world unable to agree on a universally accepted definition of terrorism, Cooper said the center started focusing on suicide terror four years ago in the hope that that's the kind of action that would generate the broadest revulsion around the world.
"One of the major changes," he said, "has been the big response from the Arab world and Muslims."
He said that shouldn't be surprising because today the largest number and percentage of victims of suicide terror are Muslims.
Cooper said a General Assembly special session should be a bully pulpit focusing on the whole chain of suicide terror - from the people who inspire it and support it in any way to the victims and survivors.
He pointed to a conference on terrorism in June hosted by Indonesia, the
world's most populous Muslim nation, that brought together representatives of the main religions, survivors of recent suicide bombings and a survivor of the Nazi Holocaust during World War II.
A key aim of a U.N. session, Cooper said, is getting the world to refocus on the human face, the human dimensions of this tragedy.
It also should put suicide terror at the top of the global agenda as an issue that impacts everyone, especially Arabs and the Muslim world, he said.
"We'd like to have suicide terror declared a crime against humanity," Cooper said.
This would empower governments and victims to go after the support system for suicide terrorists, acting under the rule of law, he said.
As for next year's Durban follow-up conference, Cooper said it must avoid any repetition of the anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli stands at the original gathering, and especially at a forum of human rights groups that preceded it, which led to walkouts by the United States and Israel.
He said Canada has already announced it will not participate in next year's follow-up conference, which will also be in Durban, and Israel's Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni announced that unless there are major structural changes, Israel will not attend.
"Unless there's a change of focus and structure for Durban II, the next meeting needs to be shunned by as many countries as we can encourage to do so," Cooper said.
Montas said the secretary-general told the delegation that Durban II must galvanize to fight against anti-Semitism.