The U.N. Security Council on Friday unanimously approved a resolution that expands the organization's fight against terrorism by urging the United Nations' 191 member states to prosecute and extradite anyone who supports or engages in terrorism.
The resolution, which passed 15 to 0, was introduced by Russia after Chechen militants staged an attack on a school in Beslan, Russia, that killed 338 people, more than half of them children. It marked the first time that the 15-nation council has committed to taking the fight against terrorists beyond al Qaeda, its associates and the Taliban.
The council's action came at the end of a particularly bloody week. More than 30 people were killed Thursday in a terrorist attack at a seaside resort in the Sinai frequented by Israeli tourists. A British civilian contract worker, Kenneth Bigley, was beheaded Friday by Islamic militants in Iraq.
The new resolution was co-sponsored by the United States, France, Germany, Britain, Spain and Romania.
John C. Danforth, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said the council "has pussyfooted around" its obligation to confront all terrorists for too long.
Friday's resolution, he said, "states quite clearly that the intentional targeting of civilians for death or serious bodily injury are criminal and never justifiable. The alternative position is that some 'root causes' may, from time to time, justify terrorists. The resolution, which we have adopted, states very simply that the deliberate massacre of innocents is never justifiable in any cause. Never."
The Security Council first moved to sanction al Qaeda and the Taliban government in Afghanistan after the 1998 terrorist bombings of U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. It expanded the scope of those sanctions after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, compelling countries around the world to cooperate in the effort to battle al Qaeda, its associates and remnants of the Taliban government driven from power by the United States.
The Russian initiative initially faced intense resistance from the council's Islamic countries, Pakistan and Algeria, which feared that the effort could be used to suppress groups, including the Palestinians and Kashmiri militants, struggling against what they consider occupying powers. But Russia's U.N. ambassador, Andrey Denisov, won their support by softening two key provisions that would have established a universal definition of a terrorist act and a U.N. list of international terrorists.
The resolution states that "criminal acts, including against civilians, committed with the intent to cause death or serious bodily injury, or taking of hostages, with the purpose to provoke a state of terror . . . are under no circumstances justifiable by considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or other similar nature."
But in a key compromise, the resolution applies only to a series of international conventions that outlaw specific terrorist acts, such as hijacking airliners, but do not provide a universal definition of terrorism that could be used to sanction groups that use suicide bombers against civilian targets. It will also create a compensation fund for victims of terrorism and establish a committee to explore ways to crack down on all terrorists.
After Friday's vote, Turkey's U.N. ambassador, Umit Pamir, told the council on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference that he was "happy" with the resolution.
"It doesn't open any new doors," added Pakistan's U.N. ambassador, Munir Akram. "We ought not, in our desire to confront terrorism, erode the principle of the legitimacy of national resistance that we have upheld for 50 years."
Still, Danforth and Denisov insisted that they will continue efforts in the terrorism committee to create a broader list of terrorists that could include armed groups from Chechnya to Spain, even if no direct link to al Qaeda is established. "I think it sets in motion a process in which a list is going to be created," Danforth said.