USIS Washington 

21 September 1998


("Terror has become the world's problem," Clinton declares) (970)

By Judy Aita

USIA United Nations Correspondent

United Nations -- "Terror has become the world's problem," President
Clinton told the delegates from 185 nations gathered for the opening
of the 53rd UN General Assembly September 21.

"When it comes to terrorism there should be no dividing line between
Muslims and Jews, Protestants and Catholics, Serbs and Albanians,
developed societies and emerging countries, the president said in his
annual address to the United Nations. "The only dividing line is
between those who practice, support, or tolerate terror and those who
understand that it is murder, plain and simple." Clinton received a
standing ovation from the heads of state and foreign ministers when he
entered the General Assembly hall.

Clinton devoted the bulk of his speech -- his sixth to the opening
General Assembly session -- to a discussion of terrorism and the
common obligation of the international body to put the fight against
terrorism at the top of its agenda. Urging nations "to think in new
terms on terrorism," he stressed that terrorism saps the promise,
hopes, and potential for a better life for people all over the world.

The fight against terrorism will not be easy, the president said, "but
every nation will be strengthened in joining it."

Terrorism, the president said, is not "a clash of cultures or
political action by other means, or a divine calling, but a clash
between the forces of the past and the forces of the future, between
those who tear down and those who build up, between hope and fear,
chaos and community."

"It is a grave misconception to see terrorism as only or mostly an
American problem," he said. "Indeed, it is a clear and present danger
to tolerant and open societies and innocent people everywhere. No one
in this room nor the people you represent are immune."

Mentioning flashes of terrorism around the world in the past several
years from Cairo to Tokyo, Clinton said that every victim was "a human
life extinguished by hatred, leaving a circle of people whose lives
will never be the same."

New technology coupled with increasing mobility of terrorists "raise
chilling prospects of vulnerability to chemical, biological, and other
kinds of attacks bringing each of us into the category of possible
victims," Clinton pointed out.

"The question is not only how many lives have been lost in each
attack, but how many futures were lost in their aftermath," the
president said. "There is no justification for killing innocents.
Ideology, religion, and politics, even depravation and righteous
grievance, do not justify it."

Because the United States is "blessed to be a wealthy nation with a
powerful military and a worldwide presence active in promoting peace
and security, we are often a target," the president said.

"We love our country for its dedication to religious and political
freedom, to economic opportunity, to respect for the rights of the
individual. But we know many people see us as a symbol of a system and
values they reject and often they find it expedient to blame us for
problems with deep roots elsewhere," he said.

"But we are no threat to any peaceful nation, and we believe the best
way to disprove these claims is to continue our work for peace and
prosperity around the world," the president said.

Resolute opposition to terrorism does not mean ignoring the conditions
that foster it, be they ancient hatreds, poverty, inequality, or even
the clash of civilizations, he said.

"False prophets may use and abuse any religion to justify whatever
political objectives they have -- even cold-blooded murder. Some may
have the world believe that almighty God himself, the merciful, grants
license to kill. But that is not our understanding of Islam," Clinton

"As I talked to Muslim leaders in my country and around the world, I
see again that we share the same hopes and aspirations: to live in
peace and security, to provide for our children, to follow the faith
of our choosing, to build a better life," he continued.

"There are important differences that cross race and culture and
religion which demand understanding and deserve respect," the
president said. "But every river has a crossing place."

Secretary General Kofi Annan opened the day's events also mentioning
the threat of "uncivil society: the networks of terrorism, trafficking
-- in human beings as well as illicit substances -- and organized

"Terrorism is a global menace, which clearly calls for global action.
Individual actions by member states whether aimed at state or
non-state actors cannot in themselves provide a solution," the
secretary general said.

"We must meet this threat together," he said.

Noting that there has been a dramatic increase in attacks on UN
personnel and humanitarian aid workers, Annan pointed out that
regrettably the perpetrators of such acts are almost never brought to

Clinton did not mention the U.S.-UN financial controversy stemming
from the U.S. debt to the world body of more than $1,000 million. But
the secretary general did, saying that "the single greatest impediment
to good performance is the financial straitjacket within which we are
obliged to operate. Financial stringency is a feature of today's
world....But without money there can be no value."

"Stringency is one thing; a starvation diet quite another," he said.

The secretary general also proposed that at the 55th assembly session,
which will occur in the year 2000, he present a report outlining a set
of workable objectives as the UN moves into the next century.

"What we must do is identify a select few of the world's most pressing
problems and set ourselves a precise, achievable program for dealing
with them," the secretary general said.