No Unanimity on Terrorism, Israel as U.N. Debate Starts

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Byline: Betsy Pisik

NEW YORK - World leaders yesterday agreed with President Bush that terrorism is murder and its perpetrators must be stopped, but remarks at the opening day of the U.N. general debate revealed little consensus on what terrorism is, nor how to stop it.

Many of the two dozen presidents and prime ministers who spoke yesterday clearly linked the fight against terrorism to Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories.

"The world faces an intensive and severe genre of terrorism in the Middle East," said Iranian President Mohammed Khatami. "Occupation of the Palestinian territories, Syrian Golan, and expulsion of the Palestinian people from their homeland, the judiazation of Palestine and in particular [Jerusalem]." He also condemned "the building of illegal settlements [and] the killing and terrorizing of defenseless Palestinian civilians in their homes and cities."

Many speakers criticized the U.S.-led strikes against Afghanistan and urged industrialized democracies to consider hunger and hopelessness - rather than ethnic or religious hatred - as the root causes of terrorism.

"Poverty and deprivation lead to frustration, making the masses vulnerable to exploitation by extremist organizations," warned Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. "It is the collective moral responsibility of the developed world to address this issue squarely."

The week-long debate is the largest gathering of world leaders since the September 11 terrorist attacks that flattened the World Trade Center, just two miles south of the U.N. building. The structure was heavily secured yesterday against a possible attack by al Qaeda or its sympathizers.

All the speakers at the U.N. session unequivocally condemned the attacks, which claimed about 5,000 lives and dealt a heavy blow to an already sputtering global economy. But many also cautioned against allowing the investigation and punishment of the perpetrators to turn into an attack on Islam or Arabs.

"It is now necessary to stand up firmly against all forms of harassment against Arab and Muslim communities in any country under the pretext of combating terrorism and the pursuit of terrorists," said Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Thani, the emir of Qatar, on behalf of the 56-member Organization of the Islamic Conference.

Mr. Bush said yesterday that there are good causes and bad causes, and no such thing as a good terrorist. …