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EU Parliament Adopts Anti-terror Data Rules

The European Parliament yesterday adopted new rules drawn up by the European Union to store phone and Internet data for up to two years to fight terrorism and other serious crime.

The parliament voted by 378 to 197, with 30 abstentions for a package already agreed between the assembly's two biggest groups and member states, with European Commission backing.

Earlier this month, Britain secured a deal among the EU's 25 member countries that would force telecommunications companies to store data for between six to 24 months.

The rules, proposed by the European Commission, are part of the EU's response to attacks in Madrid in 2004 and London this year.

The version adopted yesterday is tougher than that recommended by the parliament's civil liberties committee, which wanted data stored by up to a year.

The committee's recommendation was by-passed by the deal struck between member states and the assembly's right-wing European People's Party and the PSE Socialists.

The new rules still need to be formally approved by EU member states.

Telecom firms have warned that the new rules will be costly to implement, but lawmakers and member states ditched a European Commission proposal that member states pay for extra data storage costs.

'Militants may hit Scandinavia'

Norway's domestic spy chief said yesterday that Muslim militants are operating in the Nordic countries, exploiting their open, liberal societies, and will sooner or later launch an attack in Scandinavia.

Al-Qaida named Norway as a potential target, alongside the United States, Britain, Australia and other countries, in 2003.

"It's only a matter of time before we have a terrorist attack in Scandinavia; in Norway or Denmark or Sweden," said Joern Holme, head of the Police Security Service (PST), Norway's equivalent to Britain's domestic intelligence service MI5.

Norway, the world's third largest oil exporter, is a member of NATO and has troops and fighter jets in Afghanistan but did not back the US-led invasion of Iraq. In 1993 Norway brokered a peace deal between the Palestinians and Israel.

Extremists have previously planted members in Norway to help plan bomb attacks in Europe, Holme said during an interview at the PST's headquarters in Oslo.

And since the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, Europe's security services have foiled around 35 bomb attacks, he said.

"The high number and the bombs in London illustrate how serious the terrorist threat in our part of the world, and our part of Europe, is," Holme said.

Scandinavia's reputation for liberalism and equality also attracts Islamists who may view the Nordics as a safe, soft option, he said, adding that this reputation must change.

He described as incredible Norway's inability to expel an Iraqi Kurdish mullah who has links with extremist groups and whom the government has called a security risk.

An expulsion order against Mullah Krekar, founder of the Islamist group Ansar al-Islam, was originally issued in 2003 but he is still in Norway.

(China Daily December 15, 2005)


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