Ashcroft on Defensive in Davos; Denies US Greedy for Empire
Published on Friday, January 23, 2003 by Reuters
Ashcroft Denies US Greedy for Empire
by Mark Trevelyan

DAVOS, Switzerland - The United States' top law officer denied on Friday that Washington was greedy for empire and stressed it needed partners to prevail in the war on terror.

Attorney-General John Ashcroft was forced to defend the conduct of the war in the face of criticism at a major world summit.

"If you look at the United States and its performance, and where it is in the world and what it does in the world, it's not an aggressor," Ashcroft told the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

"The United States doesn't seek to consume territory or to acquire an empire," he told the gathering, at which Washington has at times faced criticism over its security policies and the war in Iraq.

Ashcroft was speaking from the same platform where U.N. chief Kofi Annan had earlier told delegates that global security must not be dictated by the "laws of the jungle." Annan told business leaders that collective international security was at risk of falling apart.

The Secretary-General said the dangers stemmed not only from terrorism itself but also from the way the war on terror was fought, although he did not mention any country by name.

"Both international terrorism and the war against it have the potential to overturn norms of behavior and human rights standards...while also exacerbating cultural, religious and ethnic dividing lines," Annan said.

"Business...has a powerful interest in helping to prevent the international security system from sliding back into brute competition based on the laws of the jungle," he told leaders of some of the world's top companies.

Ashcroft, addressing a later session, went out of his way to stress that the United States did not seek to "go it alone" in the war on terror.

"We know in no uncertain terms that we are incapable of having the kind of success alone that we could have working together," he said.

"The United States needs, in a very significant way, the wholehearted cooperation of our friends and freedom-loving colleagues around the world, and we seek to improve our level."

Ashcroft also acknowledged that Washington needed to communicate better with Muslims both in the United States and around the world, to dispel the perception that the war on terror was directed against Islam.

"We need to improve our performance and are interested in finding ways to do that," he said.

© Copyright 2004 Reuters Ltd