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Homeland Security

Washington File

16 June 2003

OAS Anti-Terrorism Treaty About to Enter into Force

(U.S.-supported treaty aims to prevent, punish, end terrorism) (520)
By Eric Green
Washington File Staff Writer
Washington -- A U.S.-supported inter-American treaty against terrorism
is about to go into effect, says the Organization of American States
(OAS).
The OAS said June 10 a sixth country -- Nicaragua -- had ratified the
Inter-American Convention Against Terrorism, which aims to prevent,
punish, and eliminate terrorism. Six member nations of the OAS were
needed to ratify the treaty before it could go into force in 30 days.
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell has praised the OAS for producing
the first international treaty since the September 11, 2001, attacks
on the United States "targeted at improving our ability to combat
terrorism." Powell said that "more than ever before, the Americas
stand together today against terrorism and for democracy. There can be
no doubt of our resolve."
Powell, who signed the treaty for the United States in June 2002, also
applauded improved inter-American cooperation in intelligence sharing
and other areas since the September 11 attacks.
At his confirmation hearing June 3 to be U.S. Permanent Representative
to the OAS, John Maisto said the adoption of "this major international
treaty" against terrorism "defies the conventional wisdom that the OAS
is long on words and short on action."
Maisto said the treaty "elaborates for regional use a broad variety of
legal and practical tools against terrorism and is consistent with,
and builds upon, previous counter-terrorism instruments and U.N.
Security Council Resolution 1373, which mandates certain measures to
combat terrorism."
The U.S. State Department's "Patterns of Global Terrorism" report for
2002, released in April, said that international terrorist groups
"have not hesitated to make Latin America a battleground to advance
their causes elsewhere." As two well-known examples, the Department
pointed to the bombings in Buenos Aires of the Israeli embassy in 1992
and the Argentine-Jewish Cultural Center in 1994. Those bombings have
been linked to the Lebanon-based terrorist group Hezbollah, which the
Department says has raised money through criminal enterprises such as
drug and arms trafficking in several Latin American countries.
The Department said the OAS treaty will improve regional cooperation
against terrorism through exchanges of information, training,
technical cooperation, and mutual legal assistance.
Nicaragua's Foreign Affairs Minister, Norman Caldera, said the
anti-terrorism treaty's impending entry into force "shows the OAS can
adapt to the times, rather than be stymied or seeking refuge in the
past."
Caldera said the Western Hemisphere "now has an instrument with which
to rid itself of one of the worst scourges of our time -- the threat
from terrorism." He said Central America, in particular, was working
together as a united, peaceful, and democratic region to fight
terrorism.
Besides the United States, 32 other OAS member nations have signed the
treaty, while Nicaragua now joins Antigua and Barbuda, Canada, El
Salvador, Mexico, and Peru as states that have ratified it. President
Bush transmitted the terrorism treaty to the U.S. Senate for its
advice and consent to ratification last November.
(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International
Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:
http://usinfo.state.gov)



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