G7 urged to pool anti-terror expertise

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The Independent Online
A plan to establish "centres of excellence" in combating terrorism is to be put to a meeting of ministers from the world's top seven developed countries by Michael Howard, the Home Secretary.

Mr Howard said yesterday that he will also call for extradition to be improved between countries, and for terrorists to be denied refugee status at the meeting of G7 ministers to be held in the wake of the IRA bombings in Manchester and Osnabruck, and the separate attack on a US base in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.

The Home Office said last night that the aim was to create a register so that countries can call on experts, such as Japanese security services who dealt with recent chemical attacks on their underground rail network by members of a religious cult.

The renewal of violence by the IRA is threatening to embarrass the Irish government, which takes over the presidency of the European Union today.

Andrew Hunter, chairman of the Tory backbench Northern Ireland committee, told Sky News that he would be urging the Prime Minister and Northern Ireland Secretary, Sir Patrick Mayhew, to consider the reintroduction of internment to combat the heightened threat from the IRA.

Mr Hunter admitted such a policy - which might involve interning Sinn Fein members such as Martin McGuinness - could be counter-productive and added that the timing had to be right and there had to be public support for it. But he said: "I think you've got to say to yourself what is the lesser evil: infringing, as some would argue, the rights of a minority, or protecting the majority against the threat of being killed or maimed by bombs."

The Irish Prime Minister, John Bruton, and John Major are expected to intensify the security action against the IRA in the wake of the Osnabruck attack, and the killing of a special branch officer in the Republic.

British intelligence sources warned ministers before the mortar attack on the Osnabruck army base in Germany that the IRA is planning to mount a bombing campaign in another major British city.

Ministers believe the IRA may then seek to force Sinn Fein into the talks by calling a ceasefire. Mr Bruton made it clear, when he condemned the killings yesterday on the BBC's Breakfast with Frost programme, that the two governments would accept a ceasefire, but would require Republicans to accept the six Mitchell principles, including renouncing violence, before Sinn Fein was admitted to talks.

The IRA's continuing campaign of violence was "utterly pointless and self-defeating", Mr Bruton said. "You will never unite people in any way by fighting, or by promoting fighting ... that's something a six-year- old child understands."

He said the attack at Osnabruck was "appalling, when you think about the number of soldiers and their families, who are engaged in a peace- keeping exercise in Europe, how many of them could have been killed by this mortar attack. It's obviously a continuation of the campaign of violence by the IRA, and it is utterly pointless.

"They used violence for 25 years, and all they did was bring hardship on everybody, but particularly on the people who have supported them. It is a completely useless and self-defeating campaign."

tThe IRA last night claimed responsibility for Friday's attack at Osnabruck. The claim, using recognised codewords, was made in a telephone call to the Dublin office of RTE, the Irish Republic's broadcasting network.

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