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Homeland Security

Annan calls on international, regional bodies to unite in fighting terrorism

29 July Declaring that "most of the challenges we face are bigger than any single one of us," United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today gathered together leaders of some 20 of the world's regional organizations to forge "a new vision of global security" in the face of an "unprecedented" list of problems, above all terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.

"The vicious sting of terrorism has been felt by the world's most powerful country, by its biggest democracy, by its largest state, by its most populous Muslim nation, and by the home of Islam's holiest sites - indeed by all of us," Mr. Annan said in opening remarks to the Fifth High-Level Meeting of the United Nations and Regional Organizations at UN Headquarters in New York.

"And we now see weapons of mass destruction threaten us not only by their very existence, but also by the potential that they might fall into the hands of terrorists who are difficult to deter and extreme in their methods and objectives," he added.

Those attending included the African Union, Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), European Commission, League of Arab States, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the international police organization INTERPOL and several UN agencies, including the nuclear watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Mr. Annan said civil wars and the disintegration of states "create conditions where civilians are brutalized and warlords, terrorists and traffickers are empowered," while the question of when and on whose authority military force should be used, "be it to protect the innocent or achieve other aims, arouses great passions" around the world.

"While many of these problems have long been with us in one form or another, the range and diversity of the challenges presented by this environment are unprecedented," he stressed, listing four essential basic points.

"First, we must remember we are all in this together," he said. "Let us not add to our burdens by descending into unproductive polarizing over our differences."

Second, institutions must keep pace with a rapidly changing world. Third, action must be taken not only against common enemies and threats but also against factors that allow them to thrive by removing the sense of political grievance and economic despair.

Finally, the basic principles of protecting human rights must never be forgotten. "If we compromise on human rights in seeking to fight terrorism, we hand terrorists a victory they cannot achieve on their own," he declared.

"If we build on these fundamentals, I believe we can develop a new vision of global security," he added. "A vision that respects human rights while confronting the threats of our age - including the threat of terrorism. A vision that draws upon the resources and legitimacy of a network of effective and mutually reinforcing multilateral mechanisms - regional and global - which are flexible and responsive to our rapidly changing and integrating world."

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