Global Terrorism Report Released

The State Department released its "Patterns of Global Terrorism" report Monday. And once again, Iran is ranked number one as the most active sponsor of terrorism in the world.

The report, which covers the year 2000, said violence in the Middle East increased significantly in the last few months of the year after Israeli-Palestinian peace talks broke down. The report says that Iran increased its support to groups targeting the Middle East peace process last year, particularly Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon and the Palestinian groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Iran says the groups are legitimately resisting Israeli occupation.

And despite pressure from pro-Israeli groups, the U.S. did not endorse Israeli allegations against the Palestinian Authority of President Yasser Arafat.

Five of the seven governments on the U.S. list of "state sponsors of terrorism" - Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan and Syria - have remained unchanged since 1993. Cuba and North Korea are also on the list mainly for providing safe haven to groups that have been inactive for years.

The report noted that the U.S. was gathering intelligence on other governments that might be eligible for inclusion on the list: "The United States was concerned that a variety of terrorist groups operated and trained inside Lebanon."

The report went on, "Lebanon has also been unresponsive to U.S. requests to bring to justice terrorists who conducted attacks again U.S. citizens and property in Lebanon in previous years."

Thirteen of the 28 organizations designated "foreign terrorist organizations" are based in the Middle East - the majority of them for attacks on Israel.

The number of people killed in international terrorist operations grew by 75 percent. The State Department said the casualty toll for the year was 405 killed and 791 wounded, compared to 233 and 706 in 1999. Asia was the continent with the highest number of victims. 19 Americans were killed in terrorist attacks, including 17 sailors who died in the October attack on the USS Cole in Yemen.

But Secretary of State Colin Powell said that even with the "scourge of terrorism upon the face of the Earth" the basic message of Monday's report should not be obscured.

"International cooperation against terrorism is increasing and it is paying off," he said at a briefing to release the report.

He noted that the U.N. Security Council levied additional sanctions against the Taliban for allowing terrorist camps to operate on Afghanistan territory and for harboring Osama bin Laden. There was also the trial that led to an eventual conviction in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103.

Other areas of increased cooperation resulted in the accused perpetrators and co-conspirators in the East Africa embassy bombings being brought to trial in New York City. Powell also said that the continuing investigation of the bombing of the USS Cole, has "thus far been productive and continues to move forward.

And he pointed ut the support for the U.N. convention against terrorist financing. "This is the 12th time the United Nations has acted formally in this way, taking one more important step toward shutting down terrorist acts around the world."

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