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Collective Action Against Terrorism on U.S. Agenda at Today's G-7 Meeting

  • Sonia Winter

Washington, July 30 (RFE/RL) -- The United States will ask the international community to take collective action to check global terrorism at today's meeting of Russia and the Group of Seven leading democracies in Paris.

Senior U.S.officials said .yesterday that the United States will seek support at the meeting for a new international treaty on terrorist bombings and a host of measures to set common security standards and improve ways of identifying terrorists and the origin of the explosives they use.

The one-day conference on anti-terrorism brings together foreign, justice, and interior ministers from Russia, the United States and Great Britain, as well as Canada, Japan, Germany, France and Italy.

Attorney General Janet Reno leads the U.S. delegation, along with Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Peter Tarnoff. The State Department says Secretary of State Warren Christopher had hoped to go to Paris but had to stay in Washington for talks with visiting Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Underscoring the importance America attaches to the Paris talks, senior U.S. officials met with reporters at the White House yesterday to outline their expectations.

The problems Americans face "are manifest as well on the streets of Moscow and Tel Aviv and Tokyo and throughout Europe, and therefore dealing with the threat of terrorism requires a growing level of collective increase the level of international cooperation," said Samuel Berger, deputy national security adviser.

With Americans still reeling from the double blow of a bombing at the Olympic Games in the southern city of Atlanta on Saturday, and the July 17 midair explosion of the TWA 800 flight minutes after leaving New York, the United States wants the Paris meeting to focus on transportation security and tracking terrorist bombings.

U.S. officials hope the conference will put the seal of international approval on more than 20 practical measures that participants discussed in advance.

If adopted, the measures could make travel more expensive and inconvenience millions of air, road, and sea travellers around the world. The effort to keep civilians alive and safe from terrorist attacks may also mean sharing a wealth of personal and private information on an international basis.

The United States is pressing for uniform, international cargo and passenger manifests to ensure rapid retrieval of information about the passenger, including country of origin and destination, as well as method of payment and type of travel document.

But primarily, Washington hopes the Paris conference participants will accept the need to negotiate a treaty on terrorist bombings.

Philip Wilcox, the U.S. State Department's ambassador-at-large for counter-terrorism, says there are now ten international treaties and conventions on various kinds of terrorism.

"But there is no treaty which addresses terrorist bombings in general. We hope that this meeting will agree to begin work on a treaty of that kind," he said.

Such a treaty would make terrorist bombing an international crime, oblige nations to extradite or prosecute culprits and help bring them to justice.

The United States also expects the Paris participants to adopt measures to tag explosives or use so called "taggants" in the production of explosive substances, said Wilcox.

The United States has been looking for a long time at ways of placing markers, perhaps a certain chemical, that allows law enforcers to trace the origin of the explosive.

Other measures to be discussed today include a proposal to share information on ground transport, and maritime and aircraft security.

Mark Richards, a senior official from the U.S. Justice Department, said the United States will convene a separate meeting of transportation experts to discuss such measures. The United States also wants uniform international standards for bomb detection and screening procedures at international and domestic airports.

To help trace car bombs, the United States wants to put in place an international system of identification of vehicles and major automotive components. Most vehicles are manufactured in the eight countries participating in the Paris talks, said Richards.

"There is no mechanism, no standardization of vehicles," he said.

Another proposal would establish an international forensic data base. The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) is currently looking into the feasibility of such a project and is expected to make a recommendation in October.

The FBI currently works in 40 countries on counter-terrorism programs, including many Central European countries and former Soviet republics.

If other countries are interested, the United States would start with an international fingerprint database of known terrorists and then expand it to other forensic areas, said Richards.