Arab States Sign Anti-Terrorism Agreement
On April 22, 1998, the members of the Arab League agreed to the first regional anti-terrorism pact. The agreement calls on Arab countries to deny refuge, training and financial or military support to groups that launch attacks on other Arab nations. The signatories also promised to exchange information on terrorist groups.
Arab countries and organizations have typically defined terrorism in such a way that groups attacking Israel are excluded. The new agreement does the same thing by exempting resistance movements because efforts to secure liberation and self-determination are not considered terrorism by the League (unless it is a liberation effort directed at an Arab government). This point was included at the specific request of Lebanon.
Ironically, as Ed Blanche, the editor of Lebanon's Daily Star noted (April 23, 1998), some of the governments voting for the pact had at one time or another engaged in terrorist attacks on each other in the myriad feuds that wracked the Arab world in the not-too-distant past.
Blanche also observed that the agreement, first discussed eight years ago, was aimed primarily at Islamic fundamentalists seeking to topple the governments in Egypt, Algeria and the Persian Gulf. Though the pact calls for the extradition of terrorists, it also provided the loophole of exempting fugitives who are being sought for what a sheltering nation considers political reasons.
The treaty says attacks on ruling Arab regimes or the families of rulers should be considered terrorism and that Islam rejects all forms of violence and terror.
Blanche concludes that several Arab states have abysmal records in the area of human rights, but the pact still marks a significant step forward for the Arab world, underlining as it does that militant Islamic extremism is now considered the primary threat.
Sources: The Associated Press and The Daily Star (Lebanon).