Last updated at: (Beijing Time) Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Gulf Arabs approve anti-terror pact, back Iraqi sovereignty transfer plan

Leaders of the Gulf Arab states ended their annual summit here Monday with agreeing on the signing of a joint anti-terrorism accord and voicing support for a US-backed sovereignty transfer plan for the war-torn Iraq.


Leaders of the Gulf Arab states ended their annual summit here Monday with agreeing on the signing of a joint anti-terrorism accord and voicing support for a US-backed sovereignty transfer plan for the war-torn Iraq.

Situated in one of the world's most terror-plagued regions, the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states have been eager to get the upper hand in an increasingly demanding war on global terrorism.

"Showing strong interest in promoting security cooperation and coordination to fight terror, the Council approves the signing of the agreement to combat terrorism," said the two-day summit's final communique, read out by GCC Secretary General Abder Rahman al-Attiya.

The Gulf Agreement on Combating Terrorism, which is expected to be signed by GCC interior ministers soon, will boost security cooperation among member states by exchanging information and strengthening security networks, officials said.

As the Gulf region has become one of the vortexes of global terrorist attacks, the GCC leaders pledged to join the international war against terrorism.

"In compliance with the GCC nations' desire to work together with the United Nations in creating a safe and secure international environment, and in support of global efforts to fight terrorism, the Council agrees that the GCC join international agreements that fight global terror," the communique said.

"The leaders expressed their strong condemnation and denouncement of the terrorist acts that recently targeted housing complexes, which were executed by terror cells and elements, in Riyadh," it said.

In May, suicide bombers attacked three compounds for foreigners in the Saudi capital Riyadh, killing 35 people including the nine assailants. On Nov. 8, a new suicide attack on a Riyadh housing compound killed 17 people and wounded more than 120, most of them Arab expatriates.

As part of their efforts to fight against terrorism, the Gulf leaders also agreed to reform the educational systems in order to delete material in school curricula seen as breeding hate against the West.

After the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington on Sept.11, 2001, carried out by 19 suicide attackers, of whom 15 were Saudis, the United States complained that the educational system in Saudi Arabia instilled bigotry and anti-West hatred in young people. The GCC states expressed condemnation and rejection of terrorist operations that led to civilian casualties and destruction of resources, according to the Kuwait Declaration issued together with the communique.

"Those behind such actions were against Islamic teachings and aimed at destruction of society's social security," the declaration said.

The six Gulf states also stressed importance of political and security stability in the region, voicing support for diplomatic and political efforts aimed at achieving stability in Iraq and turning it into a positive member in the world community. They praised the US-devised plan on transferring authorities to the Iraqi people and urged the United Nations to play an active role in rebuilding the war-shattered country.

The GCC "expressed contentment with the United States' recent policies, welcoming what was issued by the Iraqi Governing Council (IGC) surrounding the agreement with the Coalition Forces insetting a time-frame for transferring power and authority to the Iraqi side," said the summit's communique.

"This is viewed as the best step for the Iraqi people to manage their affairs and define their future, particularly since the proposed program caters to both Arab and international needs," it said.

In an agreement signed between US overseer in Iraq Paul Bremer and the then Iraqi Governing Council president Jalal Talabani in mid-November, Washington announced a new plan which envisions the end of occupation in June 2004 once a provisional Iraqi government is in place.

The Gulf Arab leaders called on the United Nations, which has been sidelined in the rebuilding process in Iraq following the US-led war that toppled Saddam Hussein's regime in April, to play amore active part in the country.

"The United Nations must play a vital role in Iraq, as a way to help allow the Iraqi people to decide their political fate at the quickest time possible," the communique said.

Meanwhile, the leaders lashed out at Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's planned unilateral moves in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and called for a nuclear-free Middle East, which includes the Gulf region.

Sharon has talked of unilateral moves in recent weeks if peace efforts fail. His moves would include the completion of a separation barrier in the West Bank and the dismantling of some Jewish settlements.

"Such decisions do not serve Arab or international efforts that are exerted to revitalize the peace process in any way," the communique said.

The Gulf Arab leaders reiterated the need for Israel to join the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and to allow all of its nuclear facilities to be searched by inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

In the annual year-end GCC summit, the leaders also reiterated their commitment to promoting economic integration across the oil-rich region.

The GCC, which launched a customs union in January by levying au nified 5 percent tariff across the member states, has agreed to set up a monetary union in 2005, a common market by 2007 and a single currency by 2010.

The GCC, which groups Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, was established in 1981 to enhance regional ties and cooperation in economic, social, political and military fields.

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