- The Washington Times - Friday, March 22, 2002

The Bush administration is pressing the Saudi Arabian government to hand over names, records and sources of funding for charities that Washington maintains have links with the al Qaeda terror organization.

The push comes amid renewed concerns in Washington over foot-dragging by the Saudi government on five Islamic charities believed to have bankrolled terrorist organizations operating against the United States.

The organizations include the Wafa Humanitarian Organization, one of the first to be blacklisted six months ago by the U.S. Treasury for suspected ties to Osama bin Laden.

U.S. officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said they have yet to receive key information from the Saudis on Wafa an institution named in President Bush's first executive order on terrorist financing that was issued on Sept. 24.

U.S. officials believe Wafa funneled arms and supplies to bin Laden in Afghanistan.

The Saudis also have yet to disclose all information requested on the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO) a group blacklisted by the Kenyan government for ties to the terrorists behind the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

U.S. Treasury officials raided the IIRO offices in Virginia earlier this month.

The Saudis also have not met all U.S. requests for information on the Muslim World League, the kingdom's largest charity and an umbrella organization that includes the IIRO.

The league enjoys observer status in both the United Nations and the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

A raid in October by NATO officials on the Bosnia headquarters of another Saudi charity the High Commission on Aid to Bosnia uncovered materials for forging U.S. State Department badges, a computer program for operating crop-duster aircraft and photographs of the World Trade Center, before and after the bombing.

Yet Saudi officials still have not fully disclosed information on that organization's links to terrorism, administration officials said.

These Saudi-funded aid organizations and others such as the Muslim Youth League have been the subject of persistent inquiries from a U.S. interagency task force.

The task force composed of officials from the CIA, the FBI, the Justice Department, the National Security Council and the State Department has been meeting regularly in Riyadh and Washington with Saudi counterparts since December to investigate suspect charities.

"We would like the cooperation to be more fulsome, but it is better than it was in the past. The cooperation has been improving slowly, but we have a long way to go before it is resolved," said one administration official.

"I wouldn't say they are stonewalling. But is it taking awhile? Yes," the official said.

A spokesman at the Saudi Embassy in Washington said yesterday that the embassy does not comment on stories based on information from anonymous officials.

The U.S. and Saudi efforts have paid some dividends in Washington's efforts to stamp out terrorist funding networks.

Just this week, for example, the Saudi government released for the first time regulations requiring overseas branches of charities to register with the foreign ministry.

Both the United States and Saudi Arabia on March 11 blocked the assets of the Somalian and Bosnian branches of the Haramain charity, the first time the two countries had taken such a measure.

On March 8, Treasury Secretary Paul H. O'Neill told Dubai Business Television that cooperation with Persian Gulf states on financial links with terrorism had been "excellent."

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