- The Washington Times - Monday, December 1, 2003

NEW YORK — A U.N. monitoring committee complained yesterday that 108 nations have failed to file required reports on their actions in the war against terrorism, such as freezing assets and reporting the names of suspected terrorists.

Frustrated committee members said they are considering asking for a stronger Security Council resolution with “more teeth” to force compliance from member states.

The reports are required under Security Council resolutions passed since 2001, which imposed sanctions first on the Taliban and later on al Qaeda and the 30 to 40 terrorist groups thought to be affiliated with them.

Governments are required to enumerate steps that they have taken to make banking records more transparent, identify terrorist suspects and halt shipments of weapons and potentially dangerous chemicals.

Michael Chandler, chairman of the monitoring group, said he would not make excuses for nations that have been slow to file the comprehensive reports, which were due by the end of October.

Among the countries that have not complied are several where the al Qaeda terror network is thought to be active, including Afghanistan, Egypt, Indonesia, Kenya and Sudan.

“There is a stigma, I think, as though countries are reluctant to admit there is al Qaeda activity or connections inside their borders,” Mr. Chandler said, suggesting that such admissions would scare away tourism and investment.

“We were surprised to see in some of these [reports] not as much information about the presence of al Qaeda as we would have expected.”

Chilean Ambassador Heraldo Munoz, chairman of the United Nations’ al Qaeda sanctions committee, said, “I’m still hopeful we’ll have more cooperation” by the end of the year.

“I think we’ll have to cooperate on a stronger resolution, give more teeth to the sanctions,” he added.

Those sanctions imposed by the U.N. resolutions call for all member countries to freeze the assets, confiscate the properties and businesses, and ban travel by suspected terrorists.

The resolutions also demand that governments shut down charities that claim to collect money for relief and investment for the Islamic poor, but in fact subsidize violent efforts.

The United States, which has met most of its reporting requirements, yesterday questioned the need for a stronger counterterrorism resolution.

“What [Mr. Munoz] means to say is that member states are not complying with the resolution, and we say, ‘Hear, hear,’” said Richard Grenell, spokesman for U.N. Ambassador John D. Negroponte. “The resolution is just fine.”

Besides criticizing recalcitrant countries, the monitoring committee warned in its report that the al Qaeda ideology “has continued to spread, raising the specter of further terrorist attacks and further threats to international peace and security.”

The authors say al Qaeda’s influence is seen in places removed from the caves of Afghanistan. They warned that the Islamic fundamentalist message is infusing local and regional groups with encouragement, training, cash and possibly even weapons.

Secessionist or terrorist groups thought to have al Qaeda connections include Jemaah Islamiyah in Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand, and Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines and possibly the Ba’athists in Iraq, the report said.

Al Qaeda’s influence “has now become more diffuse, more widespread,” Mr. Chandler said.

“What’s going on in Asia indicates that they have the ability of circumventing the sanctions we have applied,” Mr. Munoz said. “We are worried about the expansion of al Qaeda not only to Asia but to other theaters. In that sense, they have become truly a global terrorist organization.”

One place for serious concern is postwar Iraq which, the report finds, “has become a fertile ground for al Qaeda” by offering targets such as the coalition troops.

The committee — comprising five experts in various disciplines — sees al Qaeda’s hand in the separate attacks on the U.N. and Red Cross headquarters buildings in Baghdad, but Mr. Chandler said they have little evidence beyond what has been reported.

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