Arab kingdom responds to allegation it is lax on denying funds to terroristsgreenspun.com : LUSENET : Current News - Homefront Preparations : One Thread
By Barry Schweid, Associated Press, 12/3/2002 14:29
WASHINGTON (AP) Saudi Arabia responded angrily Tuesday to suggestions it is indirectly helping terror groups by inadequate screening of contributions to charitable organizations.
Crown Prince Abdullah's foreign policy adviser, Adel Al-Jubeir, said the Arab kingdom was the target of an outrageous campaign that ''borders on hate.''
In a report and at a news conference at the Saudi Embassy, he said Saudi Arabia had set up a high commission to oversee charitable groups and barred transfer of assets from one bank to another in cash.
''We've pursued terrorists relentlessly and punished them harshly,'' Al-Jubeir said.
More than 2,000 terror suspects have been questioned, and more than 100 are in detention, the Saudi official said.
The report said three al-Qaida cells had been broken up and 33 accounts totaling more than $5.5 million had been frozen.
In all the investigations, Al-Jubeir said, ''we have not found a direct link between charity groups and terrorism.''
Last week, the Bush administration disclosed working groups through the U.S. government were considering ways to tighten controls on the flow of money to terrorists worldwide.
Ari Fleischer, the White House spokesman, said ''the president believes that Saudi Arabia has been a good partner in the war against terrorism, but even a good partner like Saudi Arabia can do more.''
The U.S. drive is being undertaken with great care. The Bush administration wants support from Saudi Arabia in the event of war with Iraq.
On Tuesday, the Treasury and State Departments welcomed the Saudi statement.
''We are really very happy with the effort,'' Treasury Department spokeswoman Michele Davis said of Saudi oversight of donations to charitable groups.
Similarly, Philip T. Reeker, a State Department spokesman, said enhanced mechanisms to monitor and control financial flow to the groups were welcomed.
Al-Jubeir complimented President Bush for taking his complaint that Iraq had failed to disarm to the United Nations and said ''we will support any decision the United Nations takes.''
Asked whether Saudi Arabia would permit U.S. warplanes to fly over the kingdom to attack Iraq, he said ''we will make a decision when the time comes.''
Criticism of Saudi Arabia as a possible source of terror money escalated after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in New York and Washington in which 15 of the 19 alleged terrorists were Saudis.
Al-Jubeir said ''we believe al-Qaida chose Saudis to give the operation a Saudi face and to drive a wedge between the two countries (the United States and Saudi Arabia.''
In 1994, Saudi Arabia became the first country to freeze the assets of Osama bin Laden, the Saudi expatriate who heads al-Qaida, al-Jubeir said.
But even though Saudi Arabia is a target of the terror network it is criticized as having permitted funds to reach the organization, he said.
''We have been unfairly maligned.'' he declared.
-- Anonymous, December 03, 2002