"The United Nations cannot remain passive, cannot play a secondary role in such a big threat as terrorism," Spanish ambassador Inocencio Arias, who heads the committee, said on Friday.

Arias said he was hoping for an independent official like the former chief UN weapons inspector, Hans Blix, to fill the new post of executive director.

"My dream is to have a Mr Blix for terrorism," he said.

Monitoring

The counter-terrorism committee monitors efforts worldwide to clamp down on terrorism, including ways of funding armed groups, spelled out in a Security Council resolution after the September 11 attacks.

But unlike a parallel committee that focuses on al-Qaida and the Taliban, it does not have the leverage of sanctions to get the UN's 191 member states to heed its dictates.

Arias said 48 countries had missed a deadline to report to the committee on steps being taken to fight terror, and that the new director would be able to determine the reasons for those delays.

Reasons

"We will be able to know if there's a lack of means or a lack of will," Arias said.

If there is a lack of will, "then I will ask the executive director to name names," he said.

But Arias said he believed most nations had not yet replied because of technical reasons. Arias said the region with the worst compliance so far was the Middle East.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has 45 days to appoint the new executive director.