"Cyberterrorism" and diplomatitic protection to feature

at hemispheric terrorism conference

October 15, 1998

In fine-tuning the agenda for next month’s Organization of American States (OAS) Second Specialized Conference on Terrorism, delegates to the preparatory meeting that opened in Washington Thursday have expressed renewed concern about "cyberterrorism" as a threat that must be arrested.

The issue of terrorism on the Internet was brought up for the agenda by Col. John Sandy, the military attaché on the Trinidad and Tobago delegation to the OAS, as experts from member countries gathered Thursday for the two-day meeting at OAS headquarters.

Ambassador Lionel Hurst, Antigua and Barbuda’s permanent representative to the OAS, added that new concerns have also arisen about terrorism against diplomatic establishments in countries. "Attacks on diplomatic establishments in other countries--that have no bearing at all on the fight between the state in which the embassy is found and the persons who are engaged in terrorist act," the ambassador said, called for serious attention by the specialized conference that will be held in Mar del Plata, Argentina, next November 23 and 24. He cited the recent attack on US embassies in two African countries, stressing that Antigua and Barbuda would be "very vulnerable" if terrorists were to decide to strike embassies there.

The preparatory meeting got underway with Argentina’s interior minister, Carlos Corach, proposing a working arrangement to coordinate OAS member country efforts in the war on terrorism in the hemisphere. A highly specialized government mechanism capable of handling information "in real time" was how the minister described the arrangement that would be put at the disposal of national organizations.

Meanwhile, Ambassador Julio César Araoz, the Argentine permanent representative to the OAS, who chairs the Organization’s Working Group on Terrorism, in his overview, recalled that mandates from the second Summit of the Americas held in Chile last April called for the Second Specialized Conference on Terrorism to evaluate the progress made since the first specialized conference, held in Lima, Peru, in 1996 and to chart a course for future action.

In that regard, Ambassador Hurst explained in an interview that although at this stage there remained some difficulty arriving at a consensus as to how to define terrorism, the Second Inter-American Specialized Conference on Terrorism will represent a major achievement as it will "drive one more nail in the coffin of the drug traffickers who can undermine the legitimacy of governments throughout out the hemisphere."

Caribbean countries were also hoping that the upcoming conference would highlight their need for more technical assistance and training to fight terrorism. He pointed to the war on drug traffickers as particularly important in considering the hemispheric strategy against terrorism, explaining that his country, Antigua and Barbuda, viewed strengthening any institution to resist drug trafficking as one and the same with stepping up the war on terrorism.

The preparatory meeting, which ends tomorrow, is being chaired by Ambassador Christopher Ross, a senior US State Department official, who was elected by acclamation, with Argentina’s deputy interior minister, José María Vernet, as vice chairman. The meeting chairman, a former US ambassador in Syria, in March this year became the State Department’s coordinator for counter-terrorism.