7th October 2001
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  • UN shelves draft on terrorism
  • Taliban fire on "US plane"
  • Bush warns : Time is running out
  • UN shelves draft on terrorism

    UNITED NATIONS, Saturday, (AFP) - The UN General Assembly wound up five days of debate on terrorism yesterday by shelving a draft resolution because of divisions among its 189 member states, diplomats said.

    The assembly's indecision was in sharp contrast to the legally binding demands made on member states by the Security Council last week, and raised doubts about the global coalition the United States is trying to assemble.

    Convened after the September 11 attacks on the United States that left more than 5,000 dead or missing, the debate attracted 156 speakers, the largest number ever on a single agenda item, assembly spokesman Jan Fischer said.

    "That in itself signifies something," Fischer told reporters, in spite of the fact that "it was decided that it was probably not wise at the moment to have a resolution."

    UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, who told delegates on Monday they had a critical, and "not merely symbolic," part to play in fighting terrorism, put a brave face on things yesterday, saying the debate was "only a beginning."

    "What is important is that the whole international community has come together to fight the scourge of terrorism," Annan told reporters.

    But the debate revealed more shades of opinion than suggested by the stark choice put to delegates by New York's Mayor Rudolph Giuliani on Monday: "There is no room for neutrality... You are either with civilisation or with terrorism."

    While almost every speaker (with the notable exception of Iraq) condemned the attacks and expressed condolences to the United States, there were significant differences, notably over the question who is a terrorist.

    Many Third World delegates said it was important to come up with a clear definition of terrorism and defended the rights of the Palestinians to resist Israeli occupation.

    Others, such as India's ambassador to the United Nations, Kamalesh Sharma, voiced concerns that the global coalition which US President George W. Bush is trying to assemble might limit itself to hunting enemies of the United States.

    Sharma noted that "over the last decade, terrorists have killed tens of thousands in almost daily attacks in India."

    Most Muslim speakers quoted from the Quran to show that violence against innocent civilians is un-Islamic, and insisted, in the words of Malaysia's ambassador, Agam Hasmy, that "terrorism has no religion or nationality."

    Several speakers said that while terrorism must not go unpunished, reprisals against Arabs and Muslims were also unacceptable and their countries would not join any military action undertaken by the United States.

    They included Cuba's ambassador, Bruno Rodriguez Parrillzxa, who described the September 11 attacks as "insane" but accused the United States of double standards in getting the Security Council to impose mandatory action on member states.

    Taliban fire on "US plane"

    ISLAMABAD, Saturday (AFP) - Taliban fighters fired missiles at what they claimed was a US plane circling over Kabul yesterday as the imminent arrival on its borders of US forces upped the pressure on the Afghan regime.

    The missiles missed the plane, which eyewitnesses said flew off after about half-an-hour, while the fundamentalist militia awaited what Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair said would be a relentless campaign to topple it."

    I assure you of a complete determination to be successful in this action against the terrorists and the Taliban regime, which we will continue until we are successful," Blair said on a visit to India.

    Blair and US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld wound up what many observers regarded as a last-minute diplomatic offensive before the expected attacks, as 1,000 elite US troops were due to arrive in Uzbekistan.

    The 10th Mountain Division left their New York State base on Friday, officials said. Rumsfeld, on a visit to Tashkent on Friday, secured the use of an airbase in the former Soviet republic within striking distance of Afghan targets.

    Some 35,000 US military personnel, 350 aircraft and three aircraft carrier battle groups are in the region, with support from some British and Australian forces. Commandos are reportedly already in Afghanistan scouting targets.

    The build-up has taken place since Washington accused Osama bin Laden, who is based in Afghanistan, and his al-Qaeda network of ordering the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington that left around 5,500 dead or missing.

    Afghanistan's Taliban rulers have refused to hand over bin Laden, drawing the wrath of Washington, losing it the support of its key ally Pakistan and handing a propaganda coup to increasingly confident opposition forces.

    The plane, which circled the city several times, was not of a type used by the Taliban, eyewitnesses said."

    We think it was a US spy plane," an official in the Taliban information ministry told AFP. "Missiles were fired at the plane and some fighters were even shooting their Kalashnikovs."

    Bush warns : Time is running out

    WASHINGTON, (Reuters) - U.S. President George W. Bush warned Afghanistan's Taliban rulers yesterday that "time is running out" for them to turn over Osama bin Laden or face the consequences of harbouring the world's most-wanted man.

    Bush's blunt comment, in his weekly radio address, was the clearest indication yet that the United States would soon launch military action not only against bin Laden and his al Qaeda followers for the Sept. 11 attacks, but to punish the Taliban for not surrendering the militant Saudi exile.

    "The Taliban has been given the opportunity to surrender all the terrorists in Afghanistan and to close down their camps and operations. Full warning has been given, and time is running out," Bush said.

    Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld returned from a trip to the Middle East and Central Asia, and White House officials said Bush was satisfied with the cooperation being given by a number of countries there, including Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan, Oman, Qatar and United Arab Emirates.

    Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze said after meeting Bush on Friday he would allow his country's airports to be used for a military strike as part of the U.S.-led war on terrorism.

    "The United States is presenting a clear choice to every nation: Stand with the civilized world, or stand with the terrorists. And for those nations that stand with the terrorists, there will be a heavy price," said Bush.

    America has launched the biggest U.S. military buildup since the 1991 Gulf War. U.S. and British aircraft carriers, more than 300 warplanes, ships armed with cruise missiles and special forces troops have gathered within striking range. About 30,000 troops have been deployed.

    Bush made clear the U.S. battle is not against the Afghan people or Muslims in general.

    "America is determined to oppose the state sponsors of terror. Yet we are equally determined to respect and help the men and women those regimes oppress," Bush said.

    "Our enemy is not the Arab world," he said. "Many friendly Arab governments are, themselves, the targets of extremist terror. Our enemy is not Islam, a good and peace-loving faith.

    "And our enemy is not the people of any nation, even when their leaders harbor terrorists. Our enemy is the terrorists themselves, and the regimes that shelter and sustain them," Bush said.

    He laid out a case against the Taliban, whose rulers have demanded proof from the United States that bin Laden was responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks as Washington charges.

    Bush said the Taliban had turned Afghanistan "into a sanctuary and training ground for international terrorists terrorists who have killed innocent citizens of many nations, including our own."

    "The Taliban promotes terror abroad, and practices terror against its people, oppressing women and persecuting all who dissent," he said.

    He called the Afghan people "victims of oppression, famine and misrule. Many refugees from that unfortunate nation are on the move, and sadly many Afghans are on the verge of starvation."

    "In the struggle ahead, we will act in accordance with American ideals. We're offering help and friendship to the Afghan people. It is their Taliban rulers, and the terrorists they harbor, who have much to fear," Bush said.

    The United States has approved $320 million in humanitarian assistance in response to the refugee crisis, and it is to be delivered by airdrops, trucks and even by caravans of animals.

    "This aid will help Afghans make it through the upcoming winter. For the longer term, I urge Congress to make funds available so that one day the United States can contribute, along with other friends of Afghanistan, to the reconstruction and development of that troubled nation," he said.

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