Blast in Atlanta Gets Europe's Attention
G-7 meeting will search for new ways to curb attacks
PARIS — A young North African is repeatedly shoved, pushed up against the wall of a Paris subway by nine French police and subway guards, handcuffed, and led away. "Pay attention! This is how we are treated in France," the suspect calls out to a passing car of commuters.
"He is an Islamic extremist who puts bombs in subways," a French policeman explains, brushing aside a question from a passerby.
This "get tough at home" strategy has long been a key weapon in Europe's arsenal against terrorism - or at least in the battle to convince the public that something can be done to curb it.
But in the wake of the bombing at the Olympic Games in Atlanta, world attention is focusing even more on international measures needed to curb the terrorist threat.
Tomorrow, France hosts an international meeting of security officials from the Group of Seven (G-7) industrial nations and Russia to firm up ways nations can work together to curb terrorism.
Most of the nations represented at this conference have faced a recent upsurge in terrorist attacks. Russia is investigating recent bombs on public transport. France and Japan both weathered deadly attacks in the Paris and Tokyo subway systems last year and are still investigating the hitherto unknown groups believed responsible for them. Basque separatists recently stepped up a campaign against tourists in neighboring Spain. And Britain is again grappling with bombs in London after the breakdown of a 17-month cease-fire with the Irish Republican Army.
Until recently, the first response to terrorist threats in Europe has been to firm up antiterrorist legislation at home.
But the US has asked its G-7 partners to make cooperation against terrorism a top priority following a terrorist attack against US barracks in Saudi Arabia last month. The issue dominated the agenda at the G-7 summit in Lyon July 28-29, where a series of 40 recommendations for the fight against organized crime were quickly repackaged as the core of a new strategy against terrorism.
This weekend's Atlanta attack makes that call even more timely.
Terrorist experts say this and other recent terrorist attacks highlight new trends in international terrorism: a proliferation of terrorist groups, the increased involvement of "amateur" terrorists alongside professional counterparts, and the targeting of tourists. To cope with this threat, much stronger international cooperation will be required, analysts say.
"The Olympics bomb conforms to what we have seen in the Paris subway attacks: The bomb may have been crude, but it got our attention," says Bruce Hoffman, chairman of the Department of International Relations and the Center of Terrorism at Scotland's University of St. Andrews.
"The problem is that interest in terrorism has been spasmodic. We've wasted a lot of time," Mr. Hoffman says.
The measures G-7 experts will be considering tomorrow include speeding up extradition, streamlining requests for mutual assistance, developing reciprocal arrangements for witness protection, and stricter procedures to curb illegal arms traffic and money transfers.
France and Spain served up a test case of such cooperation last week by coordinating the arrests of suspected Basque terrorist leaders Achiurra Egurola, alleged to be the No. 3 in the Spanish terrorist movement, and Daniel Derguy, reputed to be the No. 1 Frenchman in the movement.
In the past, Spanish authorities have criticized the French for not extraditing suspected Basque terrorists, many of whom are based in France.
In May, the new Spanish Prime Minister Jos Maria Aznar and French President Jacques Chirac met in Paris to improve antiterrorist cooperation. Intelligence services on both sides of the French and Spanish border worked closely to avert threats to the recent Tour de France bicycle race, which passed through Spanish Basque country. Tight border controls helped bring about last week's arrests.
Since Sweden refused to extradite a man suspected in the Paris subway bombings, France has called for closer cooperation in extraditing terrorists.
Europeans, however, firmly reject US moves to invoke trade sanctions to isolate and punish nations that have sponsored terrorism. On July 24, the 15-member European Union (EU) denounced the White House's announcement this week that President Clinton will sign a bill imposing sanctions against foreign companies investing in the oil industries of Iran and Libya.
"The EU is every bit as determined to combat terrorism in all its forms and whatever its source," says EU trade spokesman Peter Guilford. "Let it not be forgotten that Europe has often been the hardest hit by terrorist actions allegedly carried out with the support of these two countries - Lockerbie [Scotland] is a case in point."
"We happen nonetheless to believe that passing extraterritorial laws that strike America's friends is by no means the best way of achieving such an objective," he added.
This week, the European Commission is expected to recommend antiboycott regulations to counteract American legislation targeting Cuba, Libya, and Iran.