The proposed definition of any intentional maiming or killing of civilians as terrorism, regardless of cause, put forward by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, "could serve as the basis for consensus" in drafting the global pact, Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa said.

   

"This is a definition we can agree on," he said on Monday during a visit to the UN headquarters.

   

Annan, speaking earlier in the day, said recent bombings in Egypt and Britain should give new life to the UN campaign to adopt the draft "comprehensive convention on international terrorism", which has been stuck in a UN committee since 1996 in a dispute over how to define terrorism and whether it should exclude Palestinian bombings.

   

The umbrella convention would give nations new tools and a strong legal framework to fight terrorism collectively.

 

Informal negotiations

   

The General Assembly's treaty-writing legal committee opened a week of informal negotiations in New York on Monday in its latest bid to move the pact forward.

 

Annan has been pushing for a
pact on the definition of terrorism

All 191 UN member-states have a seat on the committee, which is chaired by ambassador Mohamed Bennouna of Morocco.

   

"What has happened in the last few weeks, from London to Sharm al-Shaikh and others, gives us one more reason to press ahead and get a good definition of terrorism that we can all live with," Annan said as he arrived at UN headquarters.

   

The UN leader has been pushing for an agreement on the pact in time for a UN world summit in New York in September.

   

He has suggested as a definition a simple statement branding any intentional maiming or killing of civilians as terrorism, regardless of the cause.

   

The drafting dispute has centred primarily on how to classify Palestinian bombings and Israeli military actions in the Palestinian West Bank and Gaza.

   

In the last round of talks, four months ago, Arab delegates continued to resist Annan's proposal as contrary to the right of national liberation movements - such as the Palestinians' - to fight foreign occupation, diplomats said.

   

But Moussa said: "Resisting occupation is a different issue altogether."

 

No reservations

   

The Arab League leader served last year on a high-level panel on UN reform that called for a definition like Annan's. 

 

"Resisting occupation is a different issue altogether"

Amr Moussa,
Arab League secretary-general

But he has said little about it since, and there were reports he had reservations about the panel's stand. 

 

Moussa denied this. "I expressed my position clearly" before the panel of experts, he said.

   

In a similar vein following last weekend's deadly attacks in Sharm al-Shaikh, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, secretary-general of the Organisation of Islamic States, urged a collective Muslim response to such bombings including the adoption of "new measures to eradicate this scourge".

   

"Terrorism ... has inflicted so much damage and brought nothing but harm to the Muslim world and its standing, particularly by demonising the image and reputation of Muslims in the eyes of the world," Ihsanoglu said in a statement issued in Jedda, Saudi Arabia.