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US: Albright Says Terror Threat Remains

  • Lisa McAdams

U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright says she is "heartened" overall by strides made in the United States' fight against global terrorism in 1999. But as RFE/RL's correspondent Lisa McAdams reports, Albright urged continued pressure and Congressional funding to keep up the fight.

Washington, 2 May 2000 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's comments came during a special State Department briefing Monday to publicly release the department's annual report, entitled "Patterns of Global Terrorism." The 107-page report was submitted Friday to the U.S. Congress and designates seven countries as state sponsors of terrorism. The U.S. Coordinator for Counterterrorism, (Ambassador) Michael Sheehan, identified the seven as Cuba, Libya, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Syria and Sudan -- the same offenders since 1993.

Both Albright and Sheehan agreed the news could have been worse.

Albright said the good news was that worldwide casualties from terrorist attacks fell sharply, and that the number of Americans killed was the lowest in seven years. But Albright said the news was not as positive on the actual number of international incidents carried out:

"The overall number of terrorist incidents did rise by more than 40 percent, reversing what had been a welcome trend. But this reflected many non-lethal attacks conducted in response to the capture by Turkish authorities of PKK (Kurdistan Worker's Party) terrorist leader Abdullah Ocalan."

The report cited Greece as the "weakest link" in Europe's efforts against terrorism but said other countries -- such as Italy -- were also to blame for not bringing Ocalan to justice during his three-month stay there last year. Further, it said NATO action against Serbia over Kosovo sparked several months of violent anti-U.S. and anti-NATO actions in Greece.

In its Eurasia overview, the report briefly detailed terrorist disturbances in seven countries -- Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Russia.

It made no negative mention of Russia's ongoing military campaign against separatists in breakaway Chechnya, whom Moscow has called "foreign terrorists." Asked why there were no Chechen "terrorist" groups even identified in the report, Sheehan said only that the issue was "under review." He gave no further details.

Albright said, overall, this year's report also reflects changes in the actual nature of the common, global enemy.

"We are seeing a shift from well-organized local groups supported by state sponsors to more far-flung and loosely structured webs of terror."

Albright said the source of anti-U.S. terrorism last year continued to move from the Middle East to South Asia, notably Afghanistan, which is accused of harboring accused terrorist Osama bin Laden.

Though Afghanistan figured strongly in the report, Sheehan said it was not considered for addition to the state-sponsored terrorism list because the U.S. government does not recognize its leadership, the Islamic Taliban militia.

The United Nations imposed sanctions on Afghanistan in November for failing to hand over bin Laden, who is wanted in the U.S. on charges related to the bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998.

Pakistan, like Afghanistan, also was singled out in the report as a major site of terrorist activity. And again, like Afghanistan, its government moved quickly Monday to denounce being singled out in the report, arguing that terrorism is a global problem.

Meanwhile, Iran was cited as the "most active" state sponsor of terrorism in 1999:

"We are concerned about the government of Iran and specifically with two of the organizations that are mentioned by name in the report, the Revolutionary Guards and their intelligence service, that are involved in actively supporting groups that are opposed to the Middle East peace process, and particularly Hezbollah, Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Those organizations remain actively committed to disrupting the peace process through those organizations."

As for Iraq, it was cited for continuing to plan and sponsor international terrorism, though the report says Baghdad focused primarily on the anti-regime opposition both at home and abroad.

On a more positive note, Sheehan said that for the first time in many years, there were no terrorism-related deaths in Egypt. And he singled out Jordan and Israel as other countries taking positive counter-terrorism steps. Both Albright and Sheehan said governments wishing to see their names removed from the terrorism list know exactly what they must do; stop supporting, financing or planning terrorist acts, and stop harboring or interfering with the pursuit and prosecution of those who commit them.

In the meantime, Sheehan says the U.S., too, has a job. Namely, to try and foster much more intense cooperation across a wide range of relationships with member states.

"It's our job to try to improve the will and the capability of those key member states where this phenomenon is occurring in order to get them to take the proper steps to address that issue of these non-state actors in their territory; that's primarily an issue of political will, and then, right behind that, giving them some capability -- training, equipment and otherwise."

Sheehan and Albright said that just because the list of state sponsors of terror has gone unchanged over the past several years, it does not mean it is unchangeable or that threats no longer remain.