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Interpol to take broader role in fighting terror

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NEW YORK (Reuters) -- The international police organization Interpol said Wednesday it is expanding the scope of its global crimefighting to play a more active role in the so-called war on terrorism.

Interpol's international wanted persons notices, known as Red Notices, will now include people charged with being members of a terrorist organization, said Interpol Secretary General Ronald Noble.

Before, anyone charged with being a member of a terrorist group had to have other criminal charges made against him to get a Red Notice. The change resulted from a reinterpretation of Interpol's constitution that had forbidden the organization from getting involved in cases of a political, military, religious or racial character.

Acts of terror

"In order to fight terrorism effectively, countries must be able to search internationally for members of terrorist organizations before they commit specific acts of terrorism," Noble told the conference at New York police headquarters.

"By issuing Red Notices for the offense of membership in a terrorist organization, Interpol provides its member countries with an essential additional tool."

Strong evidence will be required before listing individuals as members of terrorist groups and submissions will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, Interpol said in a statement.

Interpol said the change, effective Tuesday, reflected the increasing number of countries that recognize membership in a terrorist organization as a criminal offense.

Interpol also announced that New York would be the first U.S. city to have direct access to Interpol's information, giving police in the city instant access to outstanding warrants elsewhere in the world, fingerprints, photographs and other information that can be vital in making early arrests. (Full story)

"Terrorism recognizes no international boundaries. We have to match the flexibility of the terrorists. The major cities of the world are the true front lines," said New York police chief Raymond Kelly.

Noble said prior to the September 11, 2001 attacks, Interpol had only a few hundred suspected terrorists in its database. Since then, 1,025 suspected terrorists have been added.

Plans call for all 50 U.S. states to get direct access to Interpol's database system.

Copyright 2003 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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