- The Washington Times - Friday, March 8, 2002

As the United States expands its fund-freezing operations to target other terrorist groups in addition to al Qaeda, America's most important bloc of allies is being less aggressive.

The European Union has blocked assets of just two of 28 groups on a U.S. list of non-al Qaeda organizations. Out of the dozens of individuals on the list of suspected terrorists, the European body targeted eight.

U.S. targets left off Europe's list, published in December, include the PKK Kurdish rebels threatening Turkey, the Shining Path group in Peru and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

In a 15-nation bloc whose members often doesn't see eye-to-eye with each other, some cited a lack of evidence that the groups were terrorists, legal concerns, and a hesitance to support governments with dubious human-rights records, according to diplomats who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

European nations have embraced other anti-terrorism measures with impressive speed since the September 11 attacks. But their limited fund-blocking response underscores how hard it is for the United States to build consensus for cracking down on armed groups, analysts say.

"As you expand and broaden the definition of terrorism, you are likely to also expand the likelihood of disagreement between countries over who should be included and how to deal with it," said Ivo Daalder, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, the Washington-based think tank.

The Bush administration has noted that 149 countries have frozen more than $104 million in assets of groups and individuals that America has linked to terrorism.

But as the United States added non-al Qaeda groups to its financial blacklist in the past six months, agreement from allies on concerted action was harder to come by.

"In those few cases where the United States has taken action and our friends and allies have not, we are working internationally on several fronts to encourage other blocking countries to take action as well," said Tasia Scolinos, spokeswoman for the U.S. Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control, the primary agency charged with freezing terrorist assets.

Britain went after assets of many more U.S.-listed non-al Qaeda groups, including Japanese cult Aum Shinri Kyo and Irish Republican Army dissidents who call themselves the Real IRA. But such individual actions won't bring Europe-wide opinion closer to Washington's over who is deemed a terrorist.

The differences were highlighted in December when President Bush froze the assets of Hamas and closed the offices of a Texas-based foundation that purportedly helped finance the militant Palestinian group.

The European Union responded later that month, drawing a distinction between Hamas' military wing and its political leaders by blocking the funds of Hamas' "terrorist wing." It went after the Palestinian Islamic Jihad but did not include Hezbollah on its list, although it blocked funds of several individuals tied to the Lebanon-based organization.

"Europeans have a greater historical sympathy with the use of violence to effect political change," said Louise Richardson, an expert on European terrorism at Harvard University's Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies.

Most surprising in the EU response to the war on terrorism, however, was that it did not seize assets of any Europe-based groups, even though it identified 11 of them including Spain's Basque ETA, Ireland's Real IRA and the Greece's November 17 group as terrorist. The European Union cited a lack of legal basis.


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