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A world where terrorism is diminishing

The heightened U.S. concern over terrorism and the intense drive to fortify American missions in the wake of recent threats comes as statistics indicate terrorism in general, and state-sponsored terrorism in particular, is on the decline.

Total terrorist strikes last year were at a 20-year low: 273 compared with a peak of 666 in 1987.

Seven countries remain on the State Department's list of international terrorism sponsors: Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan and Syria.

But the State Department's latest assessments indicate softened attitudes toward each:

Cuba is no longer accused of supporting armed struggle in Latin America. The Clinton administration denies any warming of relations but is promoting contacts between Americans and Cubans through increased commercial flights and other actions.

Iran has a president perceived as a moderate, and the administration has refused to embrace opponents trying to topple the regime.

Libya finally has handed over two suspects for a Netherlands trial in the 1989 bombing of PanAm Flight 103 that killed 270 people, including 189 Americans.

North Korea has not been linked to an international terrorist incident since 1987, and the United States is trying to ease into better relationships with an agreement to end any nuclear weapons program.

Syria's last known export of terrorism was in 1986, and improved relations are a likely goal in the renewed effort to foster Mideast peace.

Sanctions were eased last month against Iran, Libya and Sudan to allow American companies to sell them some farm products, medicine and medical equipment.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

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