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Annan: Terrorism fight detracts from other needs

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan warned the United States and other rich countries Friday that a too-narrow focus on fighting terrorism could worsen global tensions and threaten human rights.

Addressing the World Economic Forum, the U.N. chief said international terrorism threatens peace and stability and "has the potential to exacerbate cultural, religious and ethnic dividing lines."

Yet in unusually blunt criticism apparently aimed at the Bush administration, he said the war against terror carried the risk of aggravating such tensions, "as well as raising concerns about protection of human rights and civil liberties."

The war on terror has redirected world attention "dangerously away" from other pressing concerns _ such as poverty, hunger and disease, Annan said, adding that it was "time to rebalance the international agenda."

"The most privileged members" of the United Nations, he said, were "understandably preoccupied with terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. (But) the U.N. must also protect millions of our fellow men and women from the more familiar threats of poverty, hunger and deadly diseases."

The aftermath of the war and dealing with the threat of terrorism has been a theme this year at the annual gathering of global business and political leaders.

Hours after Annan's speech, Attorney General John Ashcroft said the "entirety of the world community" was needed to eliminate terrorism and bring freedom to Iraq.

Ashcroft also called for a global effort in rebuilding Iraq, acknowledging the U.S.-led coalition was facing problems. "It's not easy to establish freedom in the midst of terror," he said. "Freedom has never been free."

On the sidelines, government ministers sought to revive global trade talks, but failed to find a way Friday.

Annan has appealed for progress on a trade deal "that will help the poor." But Swiss President Joseph Deiss, who chaired the meeting, said he thought it was impossible to conclude a new pact by the end of the year as planned.

Israeli official: Security "fence is movable'

DAVOS, Switzerland _ Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said Friday the Palestinians should return to the negotiating table because Israel is ready to make changes in the controversial barrier Israel says is being built in the West Bank to prevent terror attacks.

"The fence is movable," he said.

Shalom said Israel had pulled back similar fences on the borders with Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon and could do it again.

"If we reach agreement with the Palestinians and we agree with each other to move the fence, it's movable," said Shalom, who is attending the World Economic Forum.