*EPF107 02/11/2002
Negroponte: Fighting Terror Must Be Key Focus for U.S., U.N.
(Ambassador cites united world view on the issue) (880)

By Ralph Dannheisser
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- The United States and the United Nations may have a host of other challenges to deal with, but the fight against terrorism must rank first, the U.S. representative to the world organization says.

The objective must be to have history record that "global terrorism had its back broken in the early years of the 21st Century. That is our priority, and I'm confident that we'll get it done," Ambassador John Negroponte said February 11 in a speech at the Heritage Foundation.

"If we don't defeat global terrorism, we cannot prevail in promoting free trade, economic growth, human rights and democracy worldwide," to told his noontime audience.

Negroponte's talk to the conservative research and educational institution was his first in Washington since taking over the post of U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations last September, just days after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

The ambassador stressed that U.N. support in the wake of those attacks was swift and deep. "This was no instance where the United States had to lobby for votes.... Humanity was appalled, solidarity was complete," he said.

Among the reasons, he said, was worldwide esteem for what New York represents. "The world loves New York... It loved New York before September 11 and it loves New York even more afterward," he said. "I make this point because I don't think we should be on the defensive about worldwide anti-Americanism, and New York is one big reason why not."

Now that their nation has been freed from the grip of al-Qaida and the Taliban, Negroponte said, the United States and the international community have "an enormous obligation not to leave the people of Afghanistan in the lurch -- to not walk away, as has been done in the past."

Continuing efforts must include provision of emergency humanitarian aid, and support for full restoration of a legitimate government. "We do not wish to determine who rules Afghanistan in peace. That is for the Afghans to decide," he said.

Negroponte added that the problem of providing long-term security for Afghanistan "is a serious one," and noted that President Bush has committed the United States to help with training for the Afghan army.

And he cited the need for continuing financial assistance, noting favorably the work of a fundraising conference just held in Tokyo at which some $4,500 million in aid was pledged -- including $297 million in the current year by the United States.

Negroponte rejected the frequently heard argument that terrorism is bred in poverty, "that poverty is its root cause and conveyor belt."

While there are many good and compelling reasons to work to improve the lot of the developing world -- and while the United States is, in fact, doing so -- the linkage with terrorist activity is faulty, he contended.

"The fact is that the man who led al Qaida was fabulously wealthy," and indeed "terrorism as we have known it over the last 40 years has not been a poor man's game," he declared. Nor do people "suddenly lose their moral compass because they are poor," he added.

Negroponte called for continuing, concerted efforts to cut off the terrorists' money supply, because, he said, "without money global terrorism possesses neither wings nor weapons."

In a wide-ranging question-and-answer session, Negroponte was asked how the United States should deal with Syria -- listed by this country as a state sponsor of terrorism, but now also a new member of the U.N. Security Council.

"The short answer to that question would be, 'Carefully'," he said.

"We will be watching their behavior on the council very carefully," Negroponte added. "We certainly plan to engage them constructively where we can," he said, while acknowledging he is "under no illusions that we won't encounter some challenges and some bumps in the road ahead."

Asked about prospects for the global terrorism convention in development, Negroponte reported slow progress. He said the United States will stick to its firm position on two issues: that military personnel should not be covered by the convention but rather continue to operate under the rules of war, and that so-called liberation movements must not be exempted.

He linked the outcome to "significant progress in the Middle East peace process," and concluded, "I am not optimistic that we are going to come to closure any time soon on this convention."

As for a perception of waning influence by the United States in the United Nations structure, Negroponte said he is "not sure that press stories ... are correct" in projecting the impending loss of the directorship of the World Food Program. The United States is actively putting forth a candidate, and "we hope and expect that his candidacy will receive every consideration," he said.

And, Negroponte said, the United States hopes to regain a seat on the U.N. Commission on Human Rights -- where it lost its spot last year -- next time positions are filled. Toward this end, he said, the strategy will be to avoid an election by trying to assure that there are oly as many candidates as there are open seats.

(The Washington File is a product of the Office of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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