Britain backs move against refugee 'terrorists'

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Britain backed Russian proposals yesterday for international measures intended to prevent asylum-seekers using their status as a cover for terrorist activities, and to streamline the extradition of fugitives.

In a speech to the UN general assembly, the Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, said Britain would be working closely with Russia on a draft Security Council resolution, saying: "We cannot let terrorists exploit a protection designed for the persecuted, not the persecutors."

He said the aim of the resolution would be "to see how best we can prevent those who commit, support and finance terrorism from sheltering behind a refugee status to which they are not entitled, and to look at ways to ensure the speedier extradition of such individuals".

The draft proposals call for a number of sanctions that would target those on a consolidated list naming "all individuals, groups and entities" suspected of terrorism, but it did not seem the initiative would apply to many cases in Britain.

The draft resolution, readied after the Beslan school hostage-taking, seems designed to target Chechen rebels linked to the separatist president Aslan Maskhadov who have been granted asylum by the British and American authorities.