Giuliani's ultimatum to the world: You have a moral duty to back US

War on terrorism: United Nations
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Rudy Giuliani, the Mayor of New York, made use of a world stage at the United Nations yesterday to urge all nations to make a choice between "civilisation and the terrorists".

"This is not a time for further study or vague directives," said Mr Giuliani, who has often been withering about the UN. "The evidence of terrorism, brutality and inhumanity is lying beneath the rubble of the World Trade Centre less than two miles from where we meet today."

He was addressing all 189 delegates of the UN General Assembly. It was itself a historic moment. The last time any mayor was invited to the famous marble podium – where the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev once banged his shoe – was in 1952, when Mayor Vincent Impellitteri spoke at the opening of the UN compound on New York's East River.

Kofi Annan, the secretary general of the UN, later came to the microphone and struck a chilling note. He pleaded with governments to redouble efforts to rid the world not just of terrorists but also of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear and biological devices, noting that they too could one day be deployed in future terror strikes.

"It is hard to imagine how the tragedy of 11 September could have been worse. Yet the truth is that a single attack involving a nuclear or biological weapon could have killed millions," Mr Annan said.

"While the world was unable to prevent the attacks, there is much we can do to help prevent future terrorist acts carried out with weapons of mass destruction."

Few speeches ever delivered in the hall have been as direct as Mr Giuliani's. At times he seemed to be lecturing the delegates, repeatedly insisting that their governments had a moral obligation to side with the US to beat terror. There was no room, he said, for "moral relativism" in the matter.

"Look at that destruction, that massive, senseless, cruel loss of human life. And then I ask you to look in your hearts and recognise that there is no room for neutrality ... on the issue of terrorism. You're either with civilisation or with terrorists," he said.

"The UN must hold accountable any country that supports or condones terrorism or you will fail in your primary mission as peace-keepers," he told a hushed chamber.

In fact, the UN Security Council has already gone some way to answering these concerns with a resolution rushed through last Friday. Drafted by the United States and adopted in barely 24 hours, it obliges all governments to adopt tough new measures against terrorists and their associates. Nations must freeze all terror-related funds and prevent all movement of individual or groups suspected to have terrorist ties.

The resolution is unusual because it is backed by chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which implies that its provisions are legally binding on all countries without delay and that it can be enforced by the Security Council, using military force if necessary. The text also forces nations to deny any "safe haven" to terrorists and to co-operate in ensuring the speedy exchange of information on the actions or movements of terrorist groups.

Since 1963, the UN General Assembly has adopted a dozen legal instruments to fight terrorism. But only five have been ratified by more than 100 countries, and the most recent – to cut off the financing of terrorism – has not taken effect because it has not been ratified by enough countries.

"Out of evil can come good," Mr Annan said. "The task now is to build on that wave of human solidarity, to ensure that the momentum is not lost, to develop a broad, comprehensive and, above all, sustaining strategy to combat terrorism and eradicate it from our world."

As salvage and rubble-clearance work continued at the site of the World Trade Centre yesterday, police released revised figures showing 5,219 victims missing – down more than 400 as cross-checking eliminated duplication. Officials said 314 bodies had been recovered, with 255 identified.