- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 12, 2002

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations said yesterday that humanitarian aid alone cannot defeat global terrorism because terrorist organizations are formed not out of poverty but of political agendas.

"We should be wary of this argument," Ambassador John Negroponte said at a forum hosted by the Heritage Foundation.

Those who see the root of terrorism as poverty tend to believe that international aid alone is sufficient to prevent it, he said.

Mr. Negroponte referred to the history of Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network as an example of a terrorist group that formed even though its founders were not poor.

Al Qaeda is a rich terrorist group that did not share Afghanistan's poor living conditions during its stay there, he said.

Al Qaeda, Mr. Negroponte said, is not to be confused as a group of "Robin Hoods" because it does not steal from the rich and give to the poor.

Bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda, inherited approximately $250 million from his father.

He supplemented that fortune with businesses based in Sudan and with donations from wealthy Muslims, primarily in oil-rich Persian Gulf states.

Bin Laden used his resources to subsidize Afghanistan's Taliban government, which allowed him to turn the landlocked nations into its base of operations until the American military response to the September 11 terrorist attacks ousted the Taliban and sent al Qaeda fighters fleeing.

In the case of Afghanistan, al Qaeda had such deep pockets that the United States was dealing not with "state-sponsored terrorism but a terrorism-sponsored state," he said.

To eliminate al Qaeda's financial capabilities, last year the United States froze $33 million from 153 known terrorist organizations.

Mr. Negroponte added that Americans must distinguish between humanitarian aid to improve living standards in developing countries and misguided aid to somehow terminate terrorism.

"Terrorism does not represent or benefit the poor," he said.

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell told the World Economic Forum in New York earlier this month that the battle against terrorism would include humanitarian aid and political reforms in addition to military action.

"We have to go after poverty. We have to go after despair. We have to go after hopelessness," Mr. Powell said.

"We have to show people who might move in the direction of terrorism that there is a better way. We have to rededicate ourselves to freedom and democracy."

A spokeswoman for Mr. Negroponte said there is no contradiction between Mr. Powell and Mr. Negroponte in their view on preventing terrorism.

Asked what is next on the agenda for the war on terrorism, Mr. Negroponte declined to elaborate.

On the issue of if and when the United States might strike Iraq a course of action frequently hinted at by U.S. officials he said: "I avoid speculation."

On Iran, he said that the U.S. wishes "to encourage [democratic] tendencies in Iran."

For their attempts to acquire weapons of mass destruction, Iran, Iraq and North Korea were labeled an "axis of evil" by President Bush in his recent State of the Union speech.

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