Tackle poverty to prevent terrorism, says Mbeki

Wealthy nations should do more to alleviate global poverty that is being exploited by terrorist groups in poor countries, South African President Thabo Mbeki said on Friday.

“Somebody who is mobilising for terrorism ... can use the fact of poverty, the fact of large disparities of wealth, the fact of a process of globalisation, which produces great successes at one end of the globe and great disasters at the other end,” he said.

“(They) can exploit that to say these are the devils, lets carry out a terrorist campaign against them,” Mbeki said.

Poverty was a major factor in international instability and a cause of refugees fleeing from the poor to rich nations.

“It’s in the interest even of the rich and developed to try and do whatever needs to be done to address this matter of poverty because it will impact on them inevitably,” he said.

The South African president was speaking to The Associated Press on the sidelines of a conference of developing nations at a tropical resort near the city of Nadi.

The third summit of leaders from the 78-member African Caribbean Pacific group is trying to reach a unified front for crucial trade talks with the European Union in September.

Delegations from 63 nations, mostly former European colonies, also seeking to weld themselves into a single voice to gain a better deal for their peoples in the face of globalisation.

ACP members states, which account for about 650-million people, include the world’s 40 poorest countries and some of its tiniest and most fragile states.

Mbeki also backed a call by Fijian Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase for the United States to follow the example of the European Union and enter into agreements with ACP countries that offer favourable trade arrangements and development aid in return for pledges to improve governance and fight corruption.

Under an agreement signed between the ACP and the EU in 2000, the Europeans link trade and 13,5-billion euros ($13,5-billion) in aid over the next five years with demands for more transparent government.

Mbeki said the United States had already raised with South Africa the possibility of looking at a similar agreement when the African-US African Growth and Opportunity Act expires in 2008.

“I don’t think there will be resistance on the part of the United States from following this EU example with regard to working with these ACP countries,” he said.

Under the African growth and opportunity agreement, the first trade policy that Washington has had with Africa, the United States slashed import tariffs and quotas on nearly 2 000 products. - Sapa-AP

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