United Nations, 10 November 2001 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. President George W. Bush told the United Nations' General Assembly today that civilized countries have a duty to fight terrorism, and that those who harbor terrorists will pay a price. Bush said terrorists cannot attack without what he called the help and even the indifference of certain governments. He urged the UN's members to make a comprehensive commitment to combat all terrorist organizations without regard to the terrorists' political or social goals.
"We have a responsibility to deny any sanctuary, safe haven, or transit to terrorists. Every known terrorist camp must be shut down, its operators apprehended and evidence of their arrest presented to the United Nations."
Bush said Afghanistan is now paying dearly for its support of Osama bin Laden and his Al-Qaeda network, which the U.S. says is responsible for the 11 September terrorist attacks on America. He did not name other countries that he believes are harboring terrorists, but Washington has said repeatedly that Lebanon, Syria, and Iran are state sponsors of terrorism.
The American president also responded to concern around the world that many innocent civilians are being killed in the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan. Bush said allied forces are doing their best to minimize such casualties. By contrast, Bush said, the terrorists who attacked America sought to maximize the number of civilian deaths.
Bush said he appreciates the sympathy of the world's nations for America's suffering because of the 11 September terrorist attacks. But he added that the time for sympathy is past, and now he urged action.
Bush said the terrorists who struck in America try to hide behind Islam, and that they urge moderate Muslims to support murder committed by suicidal attackers. But he declared that their actions were nothing more than murder and violate the tenets of every religion. He said Islam forbids both murder and suicide.
Earlier today, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan opened the 56th General Assembly of the UN with a call to fight not only terrorism, but AIDS and other diseases.
He also told the 189-nation Assembly that poverty and the deteriorating environment deserved more attention. He said the issues facing the world before the 11 September terrorist attacks on the U.S. have not become less urgent.
"One is tempted to say that we must now focus all our energies on the struggle against terrorism and on directly related issues. Yet if we should do so we will be giving the terrorists a victory of a kind. Let us remember that none of the issues that faced us on 10 September has become less urgent."
Security is high in New York for the assembly, which was originally scheduled for 24 September, but was delayed because of the terrorist attacks.