Terrorism not from poverty, says UN rep

By CHRISTIAN BOURGE, UPI think tank correspondent   |   Feb. 11, 2002 at 4:49 PM

WASHINGTON, Feb. 11 (UPI) -- John Negroponte, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, provided a glimpse into the Bush administration's meditations in the war on terrorism Monday when he said that it is not accurate to portray poverty in underdeveloped countries as a catalyst for terrorism.

"We sometimes read that terrorism is bred in poverty, that poverty is its root cause and conveyor belt, and that the best palliative would be substantial transfers of money from the developed to the developing world," he said in a speech before the conservative Heritage Foundation. "I would think we should be wary of this argument."

While Negroponte said that though there are a multitude of compelling reasons to assist the developing world in "maximizing its economic potential," he also noted that the al Qaida terrorist group was far from poverty-stricken.

He pointed out that it was well funded and maximized some of the benefits of the developed world, including modern airlines, hotels and communications networks. The group did not spring forth from, but rather worked to the detriment of, its economically underdeveloped host nation, Afghanistan.

"People do not suddenly loose their moral compass because they are poor, and terrorism does not represent or benefit the poor," he said. "One look at what terrorism did to Afghanistan's people and economy demonstrates exactly what might be called the terrorist's ethic of social and economic justice."

For example, he cited that fact that al Qaida did not assist the Afghan people by building schools and hospitals, but helped itself by building training bases and safe houses while "economic and social opportunity vanished" in Afghanistan.

According to Negroponte, these arguments underline the need for cutting off the funding for global terrorist groups, which he said was key in the war on terrorism.

It is an effort that he said would benefit by the Sept. 28 approval of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1373, which requires all member U.N. states to review their domestic laws to ensure that terrorists could not finance themselves or hide funds within their boarders. The council also set up a committee to monitor compliance.

But Negroponte admitted that of the 130 to 140 countries that have filed reports, many of them were "superficial," with numerous country reports still outstanding. Nevertheless, he added that the committee was still in the information gathering stage, and that officials were already following up on substandard reports.

When asked whether a United Nations effort on this front could be effective, given the longstanding criticisms of the body's disappointing success rate in achieving stated goals in other policy arenas, Negroponte replied:

"This is not a large bureaucratic program requiring great resources," he said. "It is more of a question of getting a global dialogue. In terms of global consensus building on how to deal with the issue, I can hardly think of a better instrument than a binding U.N. resolution."

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