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President calls for SAARC counter-terrorism strategy

'Region as a whole not safe from barbaric terror groups' :

INDIA: President Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday made a fervent appeal to SAARC to work jointly on a counter-terrorism strategy for the entire region to defeat terrorism. Addressing the inaugural session of the 14th Summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation in New Delhi, President Rajapaksa said: "Terrorism anywhere is terrorism and is a global menace.

Unless we act collectively as a region, trans-border terrorist groups will find safe havens in other parts of the region. Our effort to curb this menace should also be multi-pronged and sustained and far reaching and must include their sources of sustenance."

The President said the recent air attack by the LTTE must attract "the attention of all of us to the fact that our region as a whole is not safe from barbaric terrorist groups".

"Modern day terrorists operate in a multi-dimensional fashion. They operate politically, militarily, financially and ideologically. No country could sustain itself and flourish without addressing the need to maintain security and no country could afford to limit their resolve to the eradication of terrorism to a mere subset of national security," he said.

He urged SAARC Member States to implement the provisions of the International Agreements on Terrorism Related Matters with zest and enthusiasm. "My Government has placed great emphasis on eradicating terrorism and making Sri Lanka a safe place for our people.

It is not lost on us, however, that terrorism, whilst needing to be suppressed, also has to be grappled with on a political platform," he added.

The President pointed out that SAARC must become an action-oriented bloc. "Wile endorsing and fully subscribing to the values of SAARC, we badly need to be action oriented rather than dependent on rhetoric. Merely saying good things about each other and ignoring the reality will take us nowhere.

Therefore, all what we have endorsed over the years, must without any further delay, be transformed into action."

Emphasising the need for greater cooperation in the SAARC, the President cited the European Union as an ideal example of coming together for the greater good of their peoples. "I am particularly concerned that SAARC has not realised its enormous potential yet.

I strongly believe that SAARC must become a Union where we will endeavour to achieve our political and economic pursuits. It is also high time that we adopt a single currency, which will enhance the productivity of the region and improve trade without barriers."

"Our region, home for over one fifth of the global population, must focus on the livelihoods of most of our people. Let us not forget that the entire SAARC region is still seriously affected by poverty, although during the last two decades, we have concentrated on reducing it. However, for most people in our region life is far from satisfactory. We, as leaders, therefore, have an enormous responsibility on our shoulders to deliver now, and not wait for the future," he said.

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