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UN Moves Against Taking of Hostages

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A West German initiative against the taking of hostages was adopted by consensus by the General Assembly today. The resolution called for the establishment of a 35-member ad hoc committee to draft an international convention for that purpose. It did not mention terrorism.

The wording of the resolution represented a compromise reached after a prolonged struggle in the General Assembly’s Legal Committee where extremist Arab states, led by Libya and Algeria, attempted to sabotage the German initiative. Libya insisted that the resolution refer only to the taking of “innocent” hostages, implying that certain hostages, namely Israelis, were not innocent.

The Libyans dropped their demand after it was agreed that the resolution would not refer to the punishment of persons taking hostages in the country where they are caught or their extradition to other countries. Israel pointed out, in addressing the General Assembly after the consensus, that the ad hoc committee would have to deal with the issues of extradition and punishment. The Western powers concurred.

The Assembly also adopted a resolution today renewing the mandate of the ad hoc committee on terrorism, established in 1972 at the initiative of Secretary General Kurt Waldheim following the terrorist massacre of Israeli Olympic athletes at Munich. The vote was 100-9 with 27 abstentions.

Israel, the U.S. and Britain voted against the resolution on grounds that it legitimized certain types of terrorism. Israel, in fact, had opposed the creation of the ad hoc committee four years ago because the motivating resolution at that time upheld the right of liberation movements to pursue their struggle in a way that could be interpreted as an endorsement of terrorist acts for that purpose.

The resolution adopted today reinforced that view. One clause said: “The General Assembly urges states to continue to seek a just and peaceful solution to the underlying causes which give rise to such acts of violence.” Another clause stated: “The General Assembly affirms the inalienable right to self-determination and independence of all people under colonial and racist regimes and other forms of alien discrimination and upholds the legitimacy of their struggle, in particular, the struggle of national liberation movements.”

Meanwhile, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ismail Fahmy in a letter to Secretary General Kurt Waldheim, suggested that he visit the Mideast and invited him to pay a visit to Egypt. A UN spokesman said Waldheim was considering the matter.

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