UNITED NATIONS - Declaring counter-terrorism a
global fight, developing nations warned that world poverty and
desperate living conditions were breeding grounds for
extremists and their followers.
At the same time, Secretary-General Kofi Annan, at the
annual U.N. General Assembly debate among more than 150
presidents, prime ministers and foreign ministers, expressed
apprehension that the fight against terrorism would overshadow
programs to combat poverty, disease, and education.
``The number of people living on less than one dollar a day
has not decreased,'' since the Sept. 11 attacks against the
United States, he said on Saturday. ``
South African President Thabo Mbeki said it was obvious
that the fundamental conflict in the world today is the
deprivation of millions ``co-existing side-by-side with islands
of enormous wealth and prosperity.''
``This necessarily breeds a deep sense of injustice, social
alienation, despair and a willingness to sacrifice their lives
among those who feel they have nothing to loose and everything
to gain,'' he added.
Nine Latin American president spoke, most saying they had
direct experience with terrorists, with Colombia's Andres
Pastrana and Peru's Alejandro Toledo having been victims of
``Unequal distribution causes frustration and despair ...
and generates the conditions that give rise to conflicts and
clashes where different types of fundamentalism are at work,''
Argentina's President Fernando de la Rua said.
French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine warned wealthy
nations that building up a just global community ``instead of
just talking about it or yearning for it, will mean giving up
privileges, sharing wealth and power in new ways, and rewriting
certain rules hitherto held to be inviolable.''
U.S. President George Bush made his first speech at the
United Nations, and then watched speaker after speaker support
anti-terrorism measures he advocated. ``The time for action has
now arrived,'' he told world leaders from all regions..
The assembly session, known as the ``general debate,'' was
postponed in September after the attacks and condensed into one
week of speeches until Friday. Noting the short distance
between U.N. headquarters and the World Trade Center, Bush said
''many thousands still lie in a tomb of rubble.''
A FEW NATIONS UNEASY
Despite the overwhelming support for counter-terrorism
action, the war in Afghanistan made a few nations uneasy,
especially neighbors Pakistan and Iran, who supported opposing
Afghan factions over the past decade of civil war.
Iran's President Mohammed Khatami cautioned against
''unilateral practices stemming from pride and rage,'' while
all-important U.S. ally Pakistan advised Washington to develop
an alternate strategy if the military option faltered.
The United States began bombing Afghanistan a month ago in
an attempt to stop its Taliban rulers from protecting al Qaeda
and its leader, Saudi-born extremist Osama bin Laden, which
Washington accuses of planning the Sept. 11 attacks that killed
more than 4,600 people.
The opposition Northern Alliance, with U.S. help has
succeeded in recapturing the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif,
near the Uzbekistan-Tajikistan border.
Russia, the United States and Afghanistan's neighbors
called on the Northern Alliance on Saturday to respect human
rights in newly captured territory and let in relief workers.
In a statement issued after a meeting of experts in New
York, the so-called six-plus-two group said it welcomed reports
that the Northern Alliance had issued a general amnesty in
Mazar-i-Sharif, which it captured from the Taliban on Friday.
The meeting in New York was between representatives of
Russia, the United States, China, Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan,
Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. It was attended by the U.N.
special representative for Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi, who is
trying to organize a broad-based Afghan government if the U.S.
campaign overthrows the Taliban.
The human rights concern was well founded, because one of
the key commanders entering Mazar-i-Sharif was Gen. Abdul
Rashid Dostum, renown for human rights abuses when his forces
were in city from 1992-97 and fought on the outskirts of Kabul.
His followers were accused of rape, torture, murder, theft,
thereby paving the way for the Taliban.
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, whose country helped
bring the Taliban to power, has been opposed to the Northern
Alliance, also known as the United Front, from taking over
Kabul. Bush after meeting Musharraf late on Saturday said
Washington had discouraged the alliance from entering Kabul.
U.S. officials have long feared a bloodbath in Kabul in
which thousands would die and blame Washington for the carnage.
Fighting between ethnic and political Afghan militia over the
last decade destroyed about a third of the city.
Copyright © 2001 Reuters Limited