APEC leaders plan using IT to fight terror

Pacific Rim leaders pledged Sunday to work together to fight terrorism and laid out broad plans for new communications and computer systems to help track the global movement of goods and people.

In a joint statement issued during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum (APEC)'s meeting in Shanghai, which was the first major meeting of world leaders since the Sept. 11 attacks in the U.S., leaders from the 21-member group said in a joint statement that they "unequivocally condemn in the strongest terms the terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11."

Labelling the attacks "murderous deeds," the leaders called terrorism "a direct challenge to APEC's vision of free, open and prosperous economies, and to the fundamental values that APEC members hold."

The statement went beyond denouncing the attacks and recognized the need to strengthen international cooperation at all levels to combat terrorism. In addition to increasing the security of travel and transport and attempting to choke terrorist groups by stopping the supply of funds to them, the leaders also announced they would work on several measures centered around information technology.

Telecommunication systems, and those of other critical sectors such as transport, health and energy will all be strengthened, they said.

The statement also called for the communications systems linking customs authorities to be enhanced for the fast creation of a worldwide integrated electronic customs network. Such a network, said the statement, "would allow customs authorities to better enforce laws while minimizing the impact on the flow of trade."

Leaders also pledged to cooperate in developing "electronic movement records systems" that will help immigration authorities provide better security at a country's borders while not impeding the movement of legitimate travelers, the statement said.

U.S. President George Bush, in Shanghai for the meeting, had earlier told reporters that he was "most pleased" with support the U.S. was receiving for its battle against terrorism.

"I am confident that we've got strong support here with the leaders who are present here at Shanghai; I've talked to most of them on the phone," said Bush on Friday, according to a transcript of his remarks. "I can tell you that the support is near unanimous for not only the activities that are going on now, but for the strategy of fighting terrorism in the long run."

Also on Friday, Bush met with Jiang Zemin, president of China and host of the summit, and received a strong expression of support.

"I've made clear that we are opposed to terrorism of all forms," Jiang told reporters, according to a White House transcript. "We hope that anti-terrorism efforts can have clearly defined targets. And efforts should hit accurately, and also avoid innocent casualties. And what is more, the role of the United Nations should be brought into full play."

APEC is a 21-member group comprising of Pacific Rim nations including Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong SAR, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, the Russian Federation, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, the U.S. and Vietnam.

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