- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 17, 2003

From combined dispatches

JIDDA, Saudi Arabia — Treasury Secretary John W. Snow yesterday praised Saudi help in halting the cash flow to terrorists, despite an Israeli claim that Islamic charities linked to Hamas in the West Bank and Gaza receive about $14 million a year from Saudi Arabia.

Mr. Snow arrived in Jidda yesterday for two days of talks after similar meetings in Jordan on what U.S. Embassy officials described as efforts to combat “terrorist financing.”

“I’ve got an absolute sense [from the Saudis] that there are no holds barred in going after the money and the terrorists,” Mr. Snow told reporters after meeting with Crown Prince Abdullah and other top officials.

But Dore Gold, Israel’s former ambassador to the United Nations, said earlier in Jerusalem that $14 million a year in Saudi money goes to the Hamas social network every year. He said it was not clear how much of that money is then diverted to finance terrorist activities.

Much of the money comes from charities that are controlled by the Saudi government, said Mr. Gold, who frequently serves as an Israeli government spokesman and has written a book accusing Saudi Arabia of supporting terrorism.

Saudi government officials and Hamas spokesmen did not immediately return calls seeking comment, though an official told the New York Times such charges were “ridiculous.” Saudi officials have said in the past that money raised among Saudis for Palestinians is intended for humanitarian purposes.

Mr. Gold also said that Prince Abdullah met in October 2002 with Khaled Mashaal, the Hamas political leader based in Damascus.

A Hamas document reportedly seized by Israeli troops in the Gaza Strip describes an Abdullah-Mashaal meeting during the World Assembly of Muslim Youth in Riyadh.

The document, which was made available to the Associated Press, describes an “excellent” meeting between the two.

The crown prince, who is the de facto Saudi ruler, “and the rest of the senior officials understand that the Zionists stand behind the American pressures on Saudi Arabia and he said so explicitly,” states the document, whose authenticity could not be independently confirmed.

It adds that Prince Abdullah praised the Palestinian uprising and “expressed words of encouragement.” It also says that Mr. Mashaal met with unnamed others attending the conference and “thanked them for the donations they continue to send our people.”

Adel al-Jubeir, the foreign affairs adviser to Prince Abdullah, told the New York Times, which first reported yesterday about the Abdullah-Mashaal meeting, that it was “ridiculous” to accuse the Saudis of funding Hamas.

“No Saudi government money goes to Hamas, directly or indirectly,” he said. “Why on earth would our crown prince say we do not want to support Hamas and then allow people to do this under the table?”

In Jidda, Mr. Snow and Saudi officials pointed out that the kingdom has banned all private relief and charity groups from sending money overseas until regulations are in place to make sure the money is not going toward terrorist groups. The government has also established a unit to monitor Saudi charities suspected of sponsoring terrorist groups.

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