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Russia seeks UN terrorist asylum abuse crackdown
Updated: 2004-09-24 09:56

Russia on Thursday proposed a U.N. crackdown on the abuse of political asylum for terrorist purposes, raising pressure on Western states to hand over wanted Chechen activists.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced the initiative in a speech to the U.N. General Assembly following a spate of bloody Chechen attacks including the bombing of two civil airliners and the deadly Beslan school siege.

Without naming states such as Britain and Qatar that have given asylum to Chechen rebels and fugitives from Russia, he rebuked countries for giving such people asylum or playing "geopolitical games" with the fight against terrorism.

"The time has come, once and for all, to reject double standards regarding terror, regardless of the slogans in which it may be cloaked. Those who slaughtered children in Beslan and hijacked airplanes to attack America are creatures of the same breed," he declared.

"Harboring terrorists, their henchmen and sponsors undermines the unity and mutual trust of parties to the anti-terrorist front, justifies the actions of terrorists and in fact encourages them to commit similar crimes in other countries," Lavrov said.

A draft Security Council resolution circulated by Russia seeks to speed the handover of people accused of abusing their status as political refugees to organize or finance terrorist acts.

It also suggested compiling a consolidated U.N. blacklist of individuals, groups and entities involved in terrorism, who would be subject to an assets freeze, an arms embargo and "expedited extradition."


Lavrov won support from Britain, despite tension between the two countries over London's granting of political asylum to Akhmed Zakayev, a spokesman for Chechen rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov, and to fugitive tycoon Boris Berezovsky.

"We cannot let terrorists exploit a protection designed for the persecuted, not the persecutors," British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told the General Assembly.

He pledged London would work closely with Moscow on the resolution "to see how best we can prevent those who commit, support and finance terrorism from sheltering behind a refugee status to which they are not entitled."

Russia intensified calls to hand over Zakayev after the school siege in which more than 320 hostages died -- half of them children.

Straw stressed that Britain and its European Union partners would not hand over people who could face the death penalty, torture or unwarranted imprisonment. Capital punishment is banned in EU states.

Moscow has circulated a draft to the other four permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, the United States, France, Britain and China.

The text, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters, also urges the United Nations to consider creating an international fund to compensate terror victims.

But the call for an expanded terrorism blacklist could falter because of long-standing deep divisions among U.N. members over how to define terrorism.

A Security Council committee currently compiles only a list of people and groups linked to the al Qaeda network and the Taliban, with an eye to freezing their assets and travel and prohibiting them from acquiring arms and related material.

Western governments say Moscow should seek a political solution in Chechnya but President Vladimir Putin has vowed to crush the rebels and equated calls to talk peace with them to negotiating with Islamic militant Osama bin Laden.

The Russian draft defines terrorism as the deliberate targeting of civilians to "provoke a state of terror, intimidate a population or compel a government or an international organization to do or to abstain from doing any act."

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