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U.S. looks to strengthen support in U.N.

By Ian Christopher McCaleb
CNN Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The United States aimed Wednesday to strengthen its support on the U.N. Security Council as the council takes up the fight against terrorism in October.

Secretary of State Colin Powell met in Washington on Wednesday morning with Brian Cowen, foreign minister of the Irish Republic, as Ireland prepares to assume the presidency of the 15-member council. Cowen pledged Ireland would exert its will to aid the United States.

The Security Council has five permanent members -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States.

Ten other countries also hold seats that rotate every two years. This year's additions were Colombia, Mauritius, Singapore, Ireland and Norway, all of which are expected to be sympathetic to U.S. anti-terrorism aims.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher indicated what the United States might seek from the Irish Republic and other U.N. members.

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"The General Assembly will enter into a discussion starting October 1 on the subject of terrorism," Boucher said. "[Cowen] intends to make sure the Security Council takes up its responsibilities against terrorism."

The United Nations, Boucher said, is dealing with a number of resolutions related to terrorist organizations.

The Bush administration moved Monday to secure the assets of 27 individuals and groups said to be connected to several Middle Eastern terror networks.

"Many countries themselves have gone forward with implementing steps," Boucher said. Ireland would "be involved in passage, or involved in helping implement" resolutions barring financial dealings with terrorist entities.

"There is an international convention on the financing of terrorism," which awaits ratification by several nations, including the United States, Boucher said.

Perez-Arafat meeting monitored

The State Department welcomed developments between Israel and the Palestinians on Wednesday.

Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Perez met with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat at the Gaza International Airport, where the two agreed to resume full security cooperation for the first time since the Palestinian intifada, or uprising, took root last year.

The security agreement, they said, was the first step toward implementing the so-called Mitchell peace plan, and toward the eventual cessation of hostilities between the Israelis and Palestinians.

The Palestinian Authority has agreed to curb several radical Islamic groups linked to terror activities through arrests and seizure of illegal weapons.

Administration officials voiced some measure of relief that the reinvigorated talks between the Israelis and Palestinians at least had the potential to cool things off in an area of the Middle East that could be greatly affected by ongoing U.S. efforts to defang terror groups.

"Since the intifada began, we have not seen this type of discussion," Boucher said.

White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said President Bush welcomed the news of the talks.

"The president believes that all the parties in the Middle East have to take advantage of what is happening today and see this as a moment to realize the repercussions of going down the wrong road. That's a road that has led to terrorism and to the conflict in the Middle East, has led to war," said Fleischer.

Egyptian solidarity

Powell, meeting later with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher, said Egypt and the United States would work in concert to see that the two sides kept the dialog going.

Maher offered assurance of Egyptian solidarity with the U.S. anti-terror effort. Egypt, he said, has dealt with the scourge of terrorism for several years and may have much to teach the United States.

"We have discussed our opinions and exchanged ideas about the best way to do that," said Maher. "I'm sure they have a good case against the culprits who committed this horrible crime."

One nation that quashed any notion of participation was Iran, whose leaders issued sharp statements Wednesday accusing the United States of "arrogance," and urging that the United Nations lead the endeavor to dismantle terror groups.

The White House reacted in a similarly sharp manner, but the State Department seemed intent on leaving the door ajar for some form of Iranian participation.

Iran, which shares a 1,500-mile border with Afghanistan, is no friend of its Sunni-dominated Taliban leadership, nor is it enamored of Osama bin Laden and his activities.

"The president has made it clear that this is a time for nations to choose whether they are with the United States and the free world in the war against terrorism, or they are not, and I will leave it at that," Fleischer said.

"We still would be interested in what Iran would be prepared to do," Boucher said.

"Our policy on this is quite clear. We are looking for a decision by most nations to oppose all terrorism," he said. "We have seen some interesting statements from Iran, and we have seen some other statements."


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