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Wednesday, 26 September, 2001, 00:08 GMT 01:08 UK
UN agency reviews airline security
Members of the US delegation to the ICAO (from left) Mike O'Neill, Don Koran and Frank Price
Delegates believe action is needed on security
The UN agency responsible for defining air safety has recommended that international safety standards apply for domestic flights.

The president of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), Assad Kotaite, opened an 11-day assembly of the organisation in Montreal by calling for a high-level international conference on air safety.

The president of the International Civil Aviation Organisations (ICAO), Assad Kotaite,
Mr Kotaite: Such acts have no place in our civilised society
He also called for security to be tightened until the conference can draw up new rules for member countries.

The conference comes amid calls for US airline pilots to be allowed to carry firearms in the cockpit.

Mr Kotaite told the conference: "The terrorist attacks of September 11 in the United States represent the greatest threat ever to civil aviation security."

"For the first time, aircraft were used as weapons of destruction. Such acts have no place in our civilised society."

At the opening of the conference, hundreds of delegates from 143 countries held a moment of silence in memory of the victims.

Security proposals

Applying international security standards to domestic flights, like those used in the attacks on New York and Washington two weeks ago, would make it much more difficult for small knives to be carried onto planes, Mr Kotaite said.

Other proposals include locking the cockpit doors on planes while they are flying, and upgrading security controls at airports.

The largest US airline pilots' union has proposed that pilots be allowed to carry firearms in the cockpits.

Duane Woerth, chief of the Air Line Pilots Association, has asked Congress to support the plan.

"The cockpit must be defended," Mr Woerth told Congress.

Mr Woerth said that only especially trained and screened pilots would be allowed to carry weapons and that the program would be tightly supervised by a federal law enforcement.

"This must be a top priority," said Mr Woerth, a Boeing 747-series captain for Northwest Airlines, adding that those pilots allowed to carry firearms would also be allowed to make arrests.

Criteria needed

At the ICAO conference, the administrator of the US Federal Aviation Authority Jane Garvey, said the issue should be examined.

"Clearly we'd want to have the right kind of criteria, we'd want to have the right kind of training in place to make sure they were equipped as they should be, and I'm sure the pilots would want that as well," Ms Garvey said.

But debate on that issue is only likely to be held at the special conference on aviation security, likely to be held within the next three months.

An official told the BBC that such proposals could not be discussed at this conference since they needed to be properly assessed before any firm decisions can be made on whether to introduce them.

But delegates in Montreal will be hoping that the interim steps to be recommended here will help build up public confidence in the aviation industry.

Canadian Transport Minister David Collenette said Canada planned to install new explosive detection devices at the country's major airports to increase security.

The BBC's Mike Fox in Montreal
"Delegates here will be hoping to build up public confidence in the aviation industry"
See also:

19 Sep 01 | Business
US aviation crisis deepens
17 Sep 01 | Business
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18 Sep 01 | South Asia
Airlines suspend Sri Lanka flights
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