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Homeland Security

PRESS CONFERENCE BY COUNTER-TERRORISM COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN

Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York

26 March 2004

The creation of an independent executive directorate would revitalize the Security Council’s Counter-Terrorism Committee, that body’s Chairman, Inocencio F. Arias (Spain), said at a Headquarters press conference this afternoon.

Briefing correspondents on the Council’s unanimous adoption this morning of resolution 1535 (2004), he said the Committee needed to be revitalized in order to reinforce cooperation and technical assistance to governments requiring it. Another goal was to make the body more agile, operative and efficient. Many States wished to fulfill their obligations in compliance with Council resolution 1373 (2001), but they lacked the means, he noted.

[The Council adopted resolution 1373 (2001) establishing the Counter-Terrorism Committee following the 11 September 2001 attacks on the United States. Its main function was to make Member States bring national legislation in line with the fight against terrorism and to push them to ratify the United Nations conventions and protocols dealing with terrorism.]

Mr. Arias said that the revitalized Committee would consist of the Plenary -– comprising Council members and the Bureau –- and the Counter-Terrorism Committee Directorate (CTED). The head of the unit “should have status, clout, visibility and authority”, he said.

The Executive Director would be able to state clearly which States needed technical assistance and which were failing to comply with Council resolution 1373 (2001) because they lacked the political will. He or she would inform the Committee, which in turn would inform the Council. “The United Nations cannot remain passive or cannot play a secondary role [in the face of] such a big threat as terrorism is at the beginning of the twenty-first century.”

Asked how many States lacked the technical means to comply with resolution 1373 and how the new resolution would increase the pressure on those lacking the political will, the Chairman replied that 48 or 49 countries had not answered or reported back to the Committee in the time they were supposed to. He confirmed, in response to a question from the same correspondent that the pressure would be in the form of “naming names”.

“We are acting under Chapter VII [of the United Nations] Charter and this is a very serious matter and all States are bound. This is no time for games”, he emphasized.

Responding to another journalist concerning the Executive Director’s independence, Mr. Arias said he or she could be completely independent. “My dream is to have an honest and independent person taking over”. He added that he had a serious and sound candidate in mind.

Asked about government terrorism, he replied: “You are talking about extrajudicial killings; we are against extrajudicial killings absolutely”.

Another correspondent asked what kinds of assistance the United Nations could offer and whether it had the resources. Of those countries that had sought assistance, what had they asked for?

The Chairman replied that the Committee did not provide assistance directly. It put the country needing aid with an organization or another country that could provide it. The assistance would include legislative experts and people who could conduct courses on border control and those who could expedite extradition.

Did extrajudicial killings come under the Counter-Terrorism Committee’s jurisdiction, or did they require the creation of a parallel body, another journalist asked. How should the Security Council deal with States that resorted to extrajudicial killings?

Mr. Arias said they did not come under the Committee. The Council was reacting to extrajudicial killings, as it had yesterday by voting 11 in favour to 1 against with 3 abstentions.

Asked by another correspondent whether he was upset by the Israeli Permanent Representative’s “unprecedented insult to his country” following his vote in the Council yesterday, he said “I didn’t feel insulted. I think I was quite clear in condemning terrorism. But yesterday, apart from condemning all acts of terrorism, we were trying to condemn also extrajudicial killings, which the European Union has always opposed. Spain has opposed all acts of terrorism regardless of their original motivation”.

Asked how the Counter-Terrorism Committee could work with the Security Council Committee tracking sanctions imposed on Al-Qaida, he said they were two different bodies. There was cooperation, but the latter had a more limited target as well as sanctions, a tool that the former lacked.

Mr. Arias told another journalist that he could not envisage exactly when the Security Council would move to punish countries that failed to comply with resolution 1373 under Chapter VII.

Which Middle Eastern countries had not actively cooperated with the Counter-Terrorism Committee, a correspondent asked.

The Chairman replied that it was not for him to name names.

In response to a number of questions regarding the recent train bombings in Madrid and the former Spanish Government’s reaction, Mr. Arias said the Government had acted in good faith and in the absolute conviction that the Basque group ETA had been responsible for the deadly attacks. That had been the opinion of all political forces in Spain in the first few hours after the bombings.

Regarding Security Council resolution 1530 (2004) of 11 March, which named ETA as the perpetrators, he said the Council had rushed to that conclusion. “We have to apologize for that. We were in shock, the emotion was high and we, in good faith, pushed the Council to do it.”

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