Cheney urges unity against terror

`Direct threats require decisive action,' he says

January 25, 2004|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

WASHINGTON - Vice President Dick Cheney urged Europe yesterday to join the United States in promoting democracy in Iran and the Arab world, saying that democracy can deter terrorism.

"Helping the people of the greater Middle East to overcome the democratic deficit is ultimately key to winning the war on terrorism," he said in a speech in Davos, Switzerland.

At the same time, Cheney added, "Direct threats require decisive action," and he declared that the world's democracies must send an "unmistakable message" that "the pursuit of weapons of mass destruction only invites isolation and carries great costs."

The vice president urged European states to create more deployable armed forces as a way to bolster their own security - and to assist in military and peacekeeping operations in countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq.

Cheney spoke at the annual World Economic Forum, attended by 1,500 political and business leaders from around the globe. He appeared to be using his address to try to ease trans-Atlantic relations that were strained by the Iraq war. But he also seized the opportunity to enunciate anew the Bush Doctrine of pre-emption, saying that military force must be an option against terrorists and regimes that harbor them when all else fails.

Cheney's call for greater international support for democratic reforms came as the United States is hoping to persuade the United Nations to help with a smooth transfer of power in Iraq.

In promoting democratic reforms, Cheney said the Bush administration thinks that many avenues other than war, including diplomacy, can be used to combat terrorism, a senior administration official said.

In Davos, Cheney credited "quiet diplomacy" for Libya's decision last month to abandon its unconventional weapons programs. "We must confront the ideologies of violence at the source, by promoting democracy throughout the greater Middle East and beyond," the vice president said.

"Democracies do not breed the anger and the radicalism that drag down whole societies or export violence," he added. "Terrorists do not find fertile recruiting grounds in societies where young people have the right to guide their own destinies and to choose their own leaders."

With the U.S. military severely taxed by engagements in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, Cheney said, the need for Europe to bolster its troop deployment capacity was "critical."

Last year at the forum, as anti-American sentiment ran high during the run-up to the war, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell appealed to all nations to back U.S. efforts to force Iraq to disarm itself.

After the war that ended Saddam Hussein's government, weapons used as the main cause for the invasion have not been found.

"The jury is still out," Cheney said yesterday.

But with Hussein in U.S. custody, the tone at this year's forum was more conciliatory for Cheney, but not universally so.

Eva Biaudet, a Finnish lawmaker, said she was shocked by Cheney's "militarism" and his focus on increasing Europe's military capabilities.

"His solution for reaching democracy was armaments, which is not really the European solution," she said.

Swiss President Joseph Deiss, who met with Cheney after his speech, was more diplomatic.

"On the one hand it was a clear expression of American leadership and the will to combat terrorism in the world," Deiss said. "On the other hand ... I felt that the Americans also are quite aware of the necessity that [it be] an action of the international community."

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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