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UN: Chirac, Annan Urge Unified World Response

French President Jacques Chirac and United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan are calling for a unified international response to the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. They also are cautioning against assigning general blame to Muslims and Mideast states because the alleged suspects are Mideast Arabs. At a joint news conference yesterday, Chirac and Annan also noted the UN has begun to provide the basis for concerted international action against terrorism.

United Nations, 20 September 2001 (RFE/RL) -- French President Jacques Chirac yesterday became the first foreign leader to view the site of the attack on the World Trade Center and afterward called for a concerted global effort to combat terrorist groups.

Chirac came to New York one day after meeting U.S. President George W. Bush and expressing solidarity with the United States against terrorism. The French president met UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan after New York City officials gave him an aerial tour of the devastated scene in lower Manhattan.

Chirac told reporters at UN headquarters that the scene where an estimated 5,600 people died made him "feel like crying."

"It goes beyond imagination. History has seen human drama, violence, and foolishness. But here, I think, we've gone beyond the limit."

Chirac said U.S. allies have a common interest in tracking down the terrorists responsible for the attacks. But he repeated statements he made in Washington that France, though a NATO ally, reserves the right to consider what kind of action it could take part in. Like U.S. government officials, he mentioned the importance of strengthening cooperation in information-sharing, police and criminal justice work.

"Tomorrow [the next target] could be Paris, Berlin or London. France, of course, will determine the ways it will contribute [to a coalition] after it has first evaluated the situation, and consulted with other European [states] and the Americans -- that is, all of its partners."

Chirac appeared at a news conference with Annan after they discussed the 11 September terrorist incidents. Annan himself visited the World Trade center site for the first time on 18 September and yesterday joined Chirac in calling for an international response.

Both men also said any international action should be careful to focus on those found responsible for the attacks. They warned that the international community could become divided if Middle East countries and Muslims became unfairly targeted as supporters of terrorism. Annan said:

"What I think is important is that the coalition be as broad as possible and embrace all countries, as many countries as possible, because this is an issue that concerns all countries."

Annan yesterday welcomed new U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Negroponte, whose first duty at the world body is to help build a coalition against terrorism.

At the news conference with Chirac, Annan said that in his contacts with U.S. government officials, they have shown awareness of some of the root causes of terrorism, which he said include poverty, racism, and ignorance. He said the Bush administration's new pressure for revived Israeli-Palestinian peace talks are an important reflection of this awareness.

"People who are desperate, who are in despair, become easy recruits for terrorist organizations, and I think that realization is accepted generally. And I know the planners in Washington are also conscious of that."

The UN General Assembly -- which yesterday formally decided to postpone the general debate scheduled to start on 24 September -- has already started discussion on a new anti-terrorism treaty. The treaty would be in addition to 10 existing conventions -- many dealing with hijacking of planes and ships -- and will take years to finalize.

But UN Security Council representatives have also been discussing whether to pursue a tough new resolution on terrorism. That resolution would press governments not to shelter suspected terrorists and to prosecute groups associated with them.

The Security Council has called on Afghanistan's ruling Taliban to comply "unconditionally" with a resolution calling for the extradition of Saudi-born extremist Osama bin Laden, whom the U.S. considers the leading suspect behind the recent attacks.