Wed, Dec 03, 2003 - Page 1 News List

Anti-terror efforts failing to restrain al-Qaeda, UN says


Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network has continued to spread, with Iraq becoming a fertile ground for al-Qaeda supporters while anti-terror responses have been weak, a group charged with monitoring the implementation of UN sanctions against terrorist organizations said Monday.

While the group cited some progress in freezing assets of and banning travel by members of al-Qaeda and the former militants in Afghanistan, the Taliban, it said governments failed to cooperate in providing information regarding those members.

"Without a tougher and more comprehensive resolution -- a resolution which obligates states to take mandated measures -- the role played by the United Nations in this important battle risks becoming marginalized," the group said in a report.

The group, known as the "Committee on Sanction on al-Qaeda, the Taliban and their associates," was created by the UN Security Council in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks against the US.

The council ordered a freeze of assets and a travel ban on al-Qaeda and Taliban members. The monitoring group has listed 371 names and organizations belonging to al-Qaeda and the Taliban and has demanded governments provide information on 272 individuals for the purposes of asset freezing and travel ban. But it said governments have been reluctant to meet the request.

It said Iraq has become "readily accessible to followers of al-Qaeda."

"With such large numbers of foreign and non-Muslim troops involved [in Iraq], it is proving an ideal `battleground' for followers of Osama bin Laden's inspired `World Islamic Front for Jihad against the Jews and Crusaders,'" the report said, referring to the US-led coalition force in Iraq.

The monitoring group tried to visit several Middle Eastern countries in September to write the report. But Saudi Arabia denied entry to the group. In Kuwait, the group sought information about the al-Qaeda-related Wafa Humanitarian Organization, but was told that the organization did not exist.

Yemen failed to provide names of those detained in the attack against the USS Cole in 2000. In Egypt, the group was told that Cairo had not received a UN letter requesting information on individuals on the list of al-Qaeda suspects.

The report said it received little cooperation in Jordan, Syria and Morocco.

It said governments in some countries were not aware of UN resolutions demanding information and cooperation in fighting global terrorism.

Al-Qaeda was suspected of maintaining assets in 83 countries, but only 21 countries have reported freezing those assets. The total assets frozen amounted to US$75 million with the US accounting for US$70 million.

Governments have been asked to provide information on asset freezing, but the report said they have been vague on the mechanism and structures put in place to identify and investigate banking institutions that may harbor those assets.

The UN arms embargo on al-Qaeda and the Taliban has not been fully carried out, either. The report said, "States' description of the [embargo] measures ... are more telling from the information they do not provide than from what they do provide."

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