- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Banking problems

The Sudanese ambassador said yesterday that he closed his embassy because of banking problems, not the daily demonstrations outside the diplomatic mission.

Sudan used Riggs Bank in Washington until the bank closed its embassy banking division amid a federal investigation into suspected illegal transactions.

“It is extremely difficult for us to function. We cannot pay our employees or our bills,” Ambassador Khidir Haroun Ahmed told Embassy Row.

He said the bank refunded the money in the embassy’s account in the form of cashier’s checks, but added that he cannot cash them because the embassy no longer has a bank account.

The ambassador said he has spent months trying to find another bank that will handle embassy accounts.

Mr. Ahmed said Riggs notified him in June that it would cease embassy banking soon.

“A Riggs vice president told me there was no problem with Sudan, but they were closing all of the embassy accounts,” Mr. Ahmed said.

The Treasury Department has accused Riggs of failing to report “suspicious activities and banking transactions.”

Mr. Ahmed said his decision to close the embassy “had nothing to do with the demonstrations,” such as one yesterday in which actor Danny Glover and others were arrested for illegally entering embassy grounds.

A full story on the demonstration is in today’s Metropolitan section.

In the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, the Foreign Ministry said the U.S. government is responsible for facilitating the operations of foreign missions.

Embassies targeted

Terrorists are targeting foreign embassies in Europe and Central America that represent countries with troops in the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq.

Officials in Sweden and Honduras said this week that several foreign embassies in their capitals had received threats from groups linked to Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda terrorist network.

In Stockholm, government spokeswoman Maria Haakansson told Agence France-Presse, “Five or six embassies have received a letter in Arabic concerning their presence in Iraq. We have forwarded the information to the Stockholm police.”

Richard Rowe, Australia’s ambassador to Sweden, said his embassy had received one of the letters.

“The letter has been sent to the relevant Australian authorities for analysis,” he told Swedish reporters.

In Honduras, Security Minister Oscar Alvarez said elite Cobra police have been sent to provide extra protection for the embassies of Britain, El Salvador and Spain, which withdrew its troops from Iraq after terrorist attacks in Madrid earlier this year.

“The security measures are being reinforced at the missions of the countries involved in the Iraq situation,” Mr. Alvarez said in the capital, Tegucigalpa.

El Salvador is the only Central American nation still with troops in Iraq. It is dispatching 380 troops to serve in the violent Najaf area, where U.S. and Iraqi troops are in a standoff with militias loyal to radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

Militants also are planning attacks during independence day celebrations next week in Uzbekistan, where hundreds of U.S. troops are stationed to support operations in neighboring Afghanistan.

The State Department said in a warning this week: “The embassy urges Americans in Uzbekistan to exercise extreme caution, including avoiding large crowds, celebrations and public places where Westerners generally congregate.”

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail [email protected]

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