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Internet

New telecommunications treaty worries many nations

At a UN conference, delegates from 89 nations have signed the first new international telecom regulations in over 20 years. The US and other nations refuse to back rules they say encourages censorship of the Internet.

Following the refusal by 55 nations to sign the UN treaty at the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT-12) in Dubai on Friday, the head of the host country's provider thanked those delegates who supported the revisions - which included Russia and China - despite dissent.

"I say to the 89 states that signed today the treaty, thank you," United Arab Emirates telecom chief Mohamed al-Ghanim said at a press conference on Friday. Al-Ghanim also chaired the event, which began December 3. The United Nation's agency, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), organized the conference.

A nonbinding resolution within the text says that "all governments should have an equal role and responsibility for international Internet governance and for ensuring the stability, security and continuity of the existing Internet and its future development."

Following the signing of WCIT-12, the ITU secretary general reiterated to reporters that the goal of the conference was not to heavily regulate the Internet.

"Member states affirm their commitment to implement these regulations in a manner that respects and upholds their human rights obligations," ITU Secretary General Dr. Hamadoun Toure said.

Nevertheless, opposing nations contended that the revisions to the UN treaty could lead to nations governing Internet content and usage in a way that would stifle freedom of speech laws.

The United States delegation, headed by Terry Kramer, rejected the treaty on Thursday.

"The US has consistently believed and continues to believe that the [UN treaty] should not extend to Internet governance or content," Kramer told reporters in Dubai.

The last telecommunications treaty by the United Nations was approved in 1988 at a conference in Melbourne, Australia.

kms/hc (AFP, Reuters, dpa)