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Commonwealth unit to be set up to target extremist 'scourge'

A Commonwealth unit targeting the extremist "scourge" that is fuelling international terrorism is being set up under plans announced by David Cameron.

At the start of two days of meetings with leaders from across the 53-nation group, the Prime Minister said £5 million would be used to help countries find new ways of stopping "poisonous ideologies" from taking hold.

Mr Cameron flew in to Malta late last night after setting out his case to MPs for military intervention in Syria to defeat Islamic State, warning that the terrorist group was plotting atrocities against the UK.

Boosting counter-extremism operations is top of his agenda for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (Chogm), which is held every two years.

He said: "The fight against extremism is something that affects us all. The Commonwealth has a vital role to play in broadening international efforts to counter extremism. Its civil society and education networks make it particularly well placed to complement international efforts to build counter narratives to this poisonous extremist ideology.

"This is the struggle of our generation, but by working together we will defeat this extremism scourge that is a threat to us all."

He added: "The Commonwealth is this extraordinary organisation, a third of humanity, countries stretching the globe, half of it under the age of 25.

"So, I think one of the most important things we can do here is talk about the perils of Islamist extremism violence and the problem of extremism more broadly.

"I want to put that on the agenda of the Commonwealth, particularly when you consider how many young people there are in the Commonwealth."

Mr Cameron pledged £1 million of funding annually for five years to help set up the new unit and a further £200,000 will go on expanding a European counter-radicalisation youth programme to include the Commonwealth.

Experts will work with governments across the group, in particular those in nations with limited resources that have a disproportionately high number of foreign fighters.

French president Francois Hollande, who Mr Cameron met for talks on Monday in the wake of the terror attacks in Paris that left 130 dead, will attend talks on climate change in Malta ahead of a meeting of world leaders at a summit in Paris on Monday.

Mr Cameron said: "It's good that president Hollande is here at the Commonwealth meeting because there is a chance in the run up to the vital Paris conference on climate change to build the momentum for a global deal.

"One of the advantages of the Commonwealth is we have got all of those small island states that are so vulnerable to climate change and if we can bring them on board for a deal that will help them we can then bring the whole world together in Paris and achieve a good climate change deal."


From Belfast Telegraph