updated 3/8/2005 4:58:55 PM ET 2005-03-08T21:58:55

Nations must band together to fight an international terrorism threat because most are too weak to deal with it on their own, a world summit on the new century’s scourge was told Tuesday.

Leading experts on terrorism also stressed the new enemy can only be contained and may claim lives for decades to come.

Brazil’s former president, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, said countries must share intelligence data with all nations and not just their closest allies.

“It is clear that we need to establish a much larger level of international collaboration in order to anticipate terrorism,” Cardoso said on the first day of the four-day conference, which coincides with the anniversary of the March 11 attacks that killed 191 on commuter trains in Madrid last year.

‘A wounded city’
“You’ve come to a wounded city, but it is not a city that has surrendered,” Madrid Mayor Alberto Ruiz Gallardon, told the meeting. “We need your efforts to feel safe again. We need you to find how to stop it happening again. The time for solutions has arrived.”

Kim Campbell, a former prime minister of Canada, said military responses to terrorism “may be important” but benefits may be short-lived. “What we’re aiming at is an approach to terrorism that focuses on prevention,” she said.

The conference is seeking to present recommendations by Friday, the day after U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan delivers a major address on stopping terrorism.

U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is the highest-level U.S. representative at the conference.

Louise Richardson of Harvard University said the many actors in the terrorism net, their easy access to weapons and a fanatical devotion to their cause make it unlikely the threat could be stamped out completely.

Goal of containment urged
“If we can successfully contain terrorism, that ought to be our goal,” she said, noting that terrorism has occurred “at least since the time of Christ” with no end in sight.

Jerrold Post of George Washington University said the fight will last years.

“You have hatreds being passed from father to son to son in a generational process we need to interrupt,” he said. “We’re talking about a campaign, a process, that may take many generations.”

To ward off attacks, delegates said like-minded governments must coordinate intelligence in data banks and agree on policies of extradition and prosecution.

“Democracy is the best vaccination against terrorism,” said Bernardino Leon, Spain’s secretary of state for foreign policy. “Our firmness is their weakness.... There are no shortcuts.”

U.S. ‘rendition’ policy criticized
The United States has faced criticism over handing over terror suspects to foreign governments — a practice human rights advocates say can lead to torture to elicit information that could not be obtained legally in the United States.

Gonzales has defended the program, known as “extraordinary rendition,” saying the administration does not condone torture.

He has said the Bush administration receives assurances that suspects won’t be tortured, though he has acknowledged the United States has little control once a transfer occurs.

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