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Last Updated: Tuesday, 8 March, 2005, 00:29 GMT
Madrid hosts terror summit
By Dominic Bailey
BBC News

A wrecked train carriage from the Madrid blasts
Islamic militants have been blamed for the Madrid attacks
More than 200 international academics and security experts are meeting in Madrid to explore ways of fighting terror and encouraging democracy.

The International Summit on Democracy, Terrorism and Security has been timed to coincide with the first anniversary of the 11 March Madrid train bombings.

The attacks, which left 191 dead, were blamed on Islamic radicals.

The summit's conclusions will be worked into the "Madrid Agenda" - guidelines for a democratic response to terrorism.

"Only freedom can save freedom, and the struggle against terrorism can only succeed by the rule of law," say the summit organisers, the Club de Madrid - an independent body made up of more than 40 former heads of state and government from around the world.

Strengthening civil society against extremists and violent ideologies, as well as mobilising citizens in favour of democracy, are essential parts of the long-term response to terrorism
Club de Madrid

The Club's purpose and priority is "to contribute to strengthening democracy in the world".

The Madrid summit, which runs from Tuesday until Thursday, is a step towards that goal, drawing on a wide range of expertise.

The Club says it is also a way of honouring "the courageous people of Madrid who have suffered immeasurable grief since the 11 March attacks" - one of the most devastating terrorist attacks in Europe.

Politicians, writers, professors and former security experts have been preparing for debates on four key themes:

  • the underlying causes of terrorism,

  • how to confront the problem of terrorism,

  • democratic answers to terrorism,

  • the role of civil society.

"We owe it to the thousands of victims of terrorism to find better ways to stop terrorists from threatening our democratic way of life," say the organisers.

"For this reason, we will explore the most effective use of the police, the military, the intelligence services and other national and international agencies to prevent and fight terrorism."

The Club's secretary general, former Canadian Prime Minister Kim Campbell, says one key aspect will be to "look very seriously at the roots of terrorism and locate the factors over which we might have some control".

"What, for example, might reinforce a sense of alienation, or a person's susceptibility to a belief system that justifies something which seems so horrible, such as the targeting of civilians and innocent people to make a political point?" she told openDemocracy.net.

Among the panellists is Middle East and international relations expert Fred Halliday, who told the BBC News website the summit was a chance to learn from different approaches to combating terrorism.

"We have to face the fact that all of us are flying blind as far as this new form of terrorism is concerned," he said. "There are a lot of questions to which we don't know the answers - such as how long this will go on."

Defending democracy

Mr Halliday, author of Two Hours that Shook the World: September 11, 2001, Causes and Consequences, said the Spanish contribution was important.

He said Spain was pushing the message that democracy has to defend itself against terrorism, but the defence of democracy is just as important.

He said it was a message to countries like the US and the UK that they cannot have a blank cheque to suspend civil liberties.

Another panellist, Andres Ortega of the Spanish edition of Foreign Policy magazine, told the Associated Press: "I believe [the conference] is going to support the European style and not put force first; rather, only as the last resort."

Others due to attend the conference are the King of Morocco Mohamed VI, Interpol's Secretary General Ronald Noble and senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan will give a keynote speech on Thursday.

Friday, 11 March is a day of national mourning in Spain.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
The background to the summit in Madrid



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