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Annan Urges Larger UN Role In Struggle Against Terrorism

By Colum Lynch

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan urged the United States to offer a measured response to the attacks against New York and Washington and to enlist the support of the United Nations for a “long-term struggle against terrorism.”

Annan's comments Monday, in a major address to the 189-nation General Assembly, reflected growing support within the world body, including among some of Washington’sallies to increase the United Nation’s role in the battle against terrorism.

Annan stopped short of calling on the United States to seek U.N. Security Council approval for military reprisals against accused terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden and his supporters. But his call for caution reflected growing concern among U.N. members that a U.S. military strike against terrorist networks in Afghanistan or elsewhere would be the start of an open-ended campaign that could provoke a major rift between Muslim countries and the West.

“Responding appropriately to this vicious onslaught is indeed a vital task,” Annan said. “Let us therefore respond to it in a way that strengthens international peace and security by cementing the ties among nations, and not subjecting them to new strains.”

A senior State Department official said Monday the United States welcomes a more active U.N. role as long as it does not interfere with America’s right to use military force against terrorists.

“We are working with other countries on a resolution that could stop the financing of terrorists,” the official said. “On the other hand, we don't think we need any furtherauthorization for what we may have to do to get at the people that murdered American citizens.”

The effort to place the U.N. at the center of the anti-terrorism campaign comes less than two weeks after the 15-nation Security Council adopted a resolution expressing its readiness to “take all necessary steps” to respond to the attacks. The Bush administration has interpreted the resolution, passed Sept. 12, the day after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, as a blank check for military action.

Despite initial calls for additional U.N. approval for U.S. military action by some countries, diplomats here said the Security Council is resigned to the fact that the United States will respond to the attacks as it sees fit. But many of the United Nation's key members, fearful of a broader U.S. military campaign against terrorists around the globe, have since pressed for a greater U.N. role in shaping the response.

European Union leaders said at a summit Friday that the Security Council resolution provided the United States with the legal backing for using force.