GMA RALLIES UNSC IN WAR ON TERROR  / ENDORSES DEBT-CONVERSION

UNITED NATIONS, September 16, 2005
(STAR) By Pia Lee-Brago - President Arroyo exhorted member countries of the United Nations Security Council yesterday to work more closely in fighting terrorism under the leadership of the United States.

With Mrs. Arroyo presiding over a summit of the UN’s most powerful policy-making body, the 15-member council unanimously passed two resolutions on the first day of the world summit, one to prevent the incitement of terrorism and the other to prevent conflict, especially in Africa.

Leaders of the 15 nations were sitting around the council’s horseshoe-shaped table — only the third time in the history of the Security Council that such a meeting has occurred.

In her call for closer international cooperation, Mrs. Arroyo said "the fight against terror and the prevention of conflict must thrive on synergy, creativity, strategic alliances for peace and sturdy parameters of collective vigilance."

"To deny terrorists the means to carry out their attacks, we found it practical to recognize the leadership of the United States in the war against terror," she said in a statement to the panel, citing the Philippines’ experience in dealing with insurgents and al-Qaeda-linked Islamic militants.

Philippine security forces "work closely with the United States on intelligence and security matters and in intercepting clandestine fund transfers," she said.

"The United States is the natural leader in this war on terror. America was the first and remains the biggest victim of terrorism in this present era. It is the most motivated and best equipped member state in the fight against terrorism," Mrs. Arroyo explained to summit leaders that included US President George W. Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Presidents Hu Jintao of China and Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation.

"Like many countries, the Philippines has been struck by the pain of terror but we have fought back with the vigilance of ordinary citizens, a strong bilateral and regional security network, our strategic alliance with the United States, and the tools of interfaith dialogue."

Citing the Muslim insurgency in some parts of Mindanao, Mrs. Arroyo said her administration was successful in discouraging the Moro Islamic Liberation Front "from choosing terrorism as a tactic to achieve their goals."

"We have isolated the insurgent formations from the terrorist cells, negotiating with the former and hunting down the latter — without spawning collateral conflict. Our peace process is perhaps the only one in the world that formally incorporates an anti-terrorism component."

Mrs. Arroyo proposed that the council’s counter-terrorism committee "undertake a special intelligence coordinating project with the United States to consolidate all overt and covert international sources of information relevant to the war against terrorism, including an immediate inventory of private organizations that may be working as fronts for terrorist activities, and a watch list of governments abetting or directly involved in terrorism and related criminal acts."

"Those found culpable should face the full force of UN sanctions," she declared.

The UN "did not foresee the threat of terror in its form today" when the organization was formed 60 years ago at the end of World War II, Mrs. Arroyo told summit leaders, "but it is adequate to provide the Security Council appropriate means to meet this challenge."

She said the council should pass a resolution creating a "principled comprehensive strategy" to fight terrorism globally, which UN Secretary General Kofi Annan had called for in March.

"Because we are the only body in the United Nations whose resolutions are binding on member states, this high council must provide the leadership for effective solutions to the problems of terrorism and conflict."

Unanimous Vote

The counter-terrorism resolution, proposed by Britain, calls on all governments to adopt laws that prohibit people from inciting anyone to commit terrorist acts — and to deny safe haven to anyone seriously considered to be guilty of such conduct.

The other resolution, from Algeria, Benin and Tanzania, calls for greater UN efforts to prevent internal crises from spilling over into armed conflicts and to prevent conflicts that have been settled from igniting again.

The resolution puts special focus on Africa, calling for an effective partnership for peace and development between the Security Council and the 53-nation African Union.

It also urges all African states to prohibit unconstitutional changes in government, to promote independent judicial systems, and to bring to justice the perpetrators of war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity.

Britain had proposed the anti-terror resolution in the weeks after the July 7 London terror attack that killed 56 people, including the four bombers.

"This terrorism is a movement, it has an ideology and it has a strategy," British Prime Minister Blair told the council. "And the strategy is not just to kill, it is by terror to cause chaos and instability."

He said terrorism "will not be defeated until our determination is as complete as theirs, our defense of freedom as absolute as their fanaticism, until our passion for the democratic way is as great as their passion for tyranny."

Resolution 1624 calls upon all 191 UN member states to "prohibit by law incitement to commit a terrorist act or acts" and to "deny safe haven" to anyone even suspected of incitement.

The document also calls on all countries "to counter violent extremist ideologies, including steps to prevent the subversion of educational, cultural, and religious institutions by terrorists and their supporters."

"We have a solemn obligation — we have a solemn obligation to stop terrorism at its early stages," US President Bush told the council. "We have a solemn obligation to defend our citizens against terrorism, to attack terrorist networks and deprive them of any safe haven, to promote an ideology of freedom and tolerance that will refute the dark vision of the terrorists."

Some rights groups fear that the resolution could be used as a tool to suppress those who oppose their views.

"Those who incite others to commit terrorism must be prosecuted," Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth said. "But the resolution’s sponsors have made it easy for abusive governments to invoke the resolution to target peaceful political opponents, impose censorship and close mosques, churches and schools."

UN Secretary General Annan said terrorism "constitutes a direct attack on the values the United Nations stands for... We must thus be at the forefront of the fight against terrorism."

The resolution dovetails with legislation introduced by Blair at home that would outlaw incitement to terrorism in Britain.

In a clear allusion to Islamist schools, or madrassas, it calls for efforts "to prevent the subversion of educational, cultural and religious institutions by terrorists and their supporters."

In a diplomatic sense, it also compensates for relatively weak language on terrorism in the draft final communiqué of the World Summit, the biggest-ever gathering of world leaders, which wraps up Friday.

Only one page in the 35-page draft deals with terrorism, and while it sets a September 2006 deadline for a "comprehensive convention on international terrorism," it says a high-level UN conference on terrorism to add teeth to such a document should only be "considered."

"We must complete the comprehensive convention on international terrorism that will put every nation on record," Bush told the summit.

"The targeting and deliberate killing by terrorists of civilians and noncombatants cannot be justified or legitimized by any cause or grievance."

Missing from the draft communiqué is any attempt to define terrorism — a clear obstacle to putting Wednesday’s resolution into practice, especially in countries where so-called "terrorists" are deemed to be "freedom fighters." — With AP, AFP

GMA endorses debt conversion plan at UN meeting 09/16 4:10:17 PM

NEW YORK - Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo endorsed to the United Nations Thursday afternoon a 50-percent debt conversion plan for their anti-poverty financing programs.

Pres. Arroyo spoke about debt burden at the 2005 World Summit-High Level Plenary Meeting of the 60th Session at the UN General Assembly.

On debt burden, she said the Philippines has applauded debt relief for the highly indebted poor countries, but she noted that there are many middle income countries that are highly indebted and have large populations surviving on less than a dollar a day.

For this, she proposed a large-scale 50 percent conversion of debt for the Millennium Development Goal’s anti-poverty financing programs.

The President’s proposal was widely applauded by the gallery.

"We are not asking for debt forgiveness or debt cancellation," she stressed.

The proposal seeks to convert the debt service on principal amount into equities of new projects of at least equal value and with their own potential earnings.

The proposal, earlier presented by House Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. during the Heads of Parliament meeting at the UN, was initially called debt for equity.

Likewise, the proposal had secured the endorsement of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and leaders of other UN member states.

The Philippine President has expressed hope that the 190-member UN would adopt the proposal and include it in its Summit Declaration, as it would benefit the 99 most heavily indebted countries, and complement an earlier commitment by leading industrialized countries to condone the financial obligations of the world’s poorest nations.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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