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Anand questions support war on terrorism { September 9 2003 }

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War on terrorism may find few supporters, Annan says
Comments likely to raise eyebrows in Washington

Steven Edwards
CanWest News Service

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

UNITED NATIONS - Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary-General, questioned yesterday whether Washington will succeed in convincing other countries to make the war on terrorism an international priority, saying most believe pervasive poverty poses a bigger threat to global stability.

"The United States has decided that terrorism is the key, which is fair," Mr. Annan said, but tackling the problems of the Third World are more important to people who live there.

He also asked whether the "hard threat" of terrorism is caused by the "soft threat" of poverty.

"Soft threats ... have an impact on stability and security around the world," Mr. Annan said. "And if you were to deal with the soft threats ... you might be able to make the world a safer place."

The UN Secretary-General was speaking as he released a report on the international fight on poverty. His comments about the relationship between terrorism and poverty are expected to raise eyebrows in Washington, because they suggest fighting terrorism is best done through huge international social programs.

Such a view flies in the face of Washington's approach, which involves putting even U.S. social programs on virtual hold while funds are diverted to confronting the terrorists directly.

That approach was reinforced on Sunday when George W. Bush, the U.S. President, said in a national address he will ask Congress for US$87-billion to pay for military and intelligence operations, and rebuilding efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"The surest way to avoid attacks on our own people is to engage the enemy where he lives and plans," Mr. Bush said.

Pundits noted the amount Mr. Bush seeks is equal to the U.S. government's annual spending on education.

At the UN's Millennium Summit three years ago, countries agreed to a series of development goals that included reducing by half the number of people living in extreme poverty by 2015. Most of the money was to come from the major industrialized countries, including Canada.

But the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, changed U.S. priorities. The subsequent toppling of the Taliban in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein in Iraq have also left Washington with huge problems not anticipated at the Millennium Summit.

The new international reality appears to have destroyed the unity achieved at the summit, Mr. Annan said.

"We all agree that there are new threats, or rather that old challenges have resurfaced in new and more virulent forms," he said.

"But we don't seem to agree what exactly they are, or how to respond, or even whether the response should be a collective one."

A striking example was the division over war in Iraq, when France, Germany and Russia led opposition in the UN Security Council to war.

Mr. Annan said yesterday the failure to find consensus showed the UN's international security system is in crisis and needs an overhaul.

He said he had called on world leaders to attend this month's annual meeting of the UN General Assembly "armed with good ideas on how to make the system better."

In seeking to launch a debate for reform, he has made no specific proposals, except to say the Security Council should be "more democratic and more representative."

As the UN's most powerful body, the 15-member Council can discipline nations using censure, sanctions or military force.

But its five permanent members -- the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China -- are likely to resist any changes that would dilute their power of veto.

The report on poverty reduction said the Millennium goals had a long way to go, with 37 of 67 countries for which data were available seeing poverty increase in the 1990s.

"There is, therefore, a clear need for political leaders to take urgent action, over the coming year, to avoid further setbacks and accelerate progress," Mr. Annan said.

Copyright 2003 National Post

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