- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 3, 2004

Saudi ‘charities’ shut

Saudi Arabia cited charity front groups in five nations for bankrolling terrorists and created a foundation for all future charitable giving, which is required of all Muslims.

Adel al-Jubeir, foreign affairs adviser to Crown Prince Abdullah, speaking to reporters at the Saudi Embassy this week, listed branches of the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation in Albania, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Ethiopia and the Netherlands.

He said Saudi Arabia and the United States jointly asked the United Nations to designate those operations as “financiers of terrorism,” which would require the five countries to freeze the assets of the front groups.

The Saudi government also closed the Al-Haramain office in the capital, Riyadh, and disbanded all other Saudi charities and committees that operated abroad, Mr. al-Jubeir said. Their assets will be folded into the newly created nongovernmental Saudi National Commission for Relief and Charity Work Abroad.

The commission will assume the responsibility for all private Saudi aid operations in foreign countries and distribute private donations from Saudi Arabia.

“This new entity will be subject to strict financial, legal oversight and will operate according to clear policies to ensure that charitable funds intended to help the needy are not misused,” Mr. al-Jubeir said.

Juan Zarate, deputy assistant treasury secretary, and Earl Anthony Wayne, assistant secretary of state for economic and business affairs, joined him at the press conference.

Saudi Arabia has been the continued target of terrorist attacks by Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda network, most recently last week in the city of Khobar.

“Al Qaeda is trying to destabilize our economy and our government,” Mr. al-Jubeir said. “But their barbaric actions grow more desperate, while the resolve of our people to uproot them grows stronger. We have no doubt that we will, God willing, prevail.”

Al-Haramain has been the target of Saudi and U.S. investigators since 2002, when they discovered their operations in Somalia and Bosnia-Herzegovina were financing terrorists. In January, the Saudi and U.S. governments blocked their operations in Indonesia, Kenya, Pakistan and Tanzania, freezing more than $139 million in assets.

Crisis in Sudan

The United States this week announced new humanitarian aid for the victims of ethnic violence in western Sudan, as Human Rights Watch urged nations providing assistance to force the Sudanese government to stop supporting brutal militias accused of deliberately killing civilians.

“This unquestionably is the most serious humanitarian crisis in the world today in terms of the number of people at risk and in terms of their condition,” said Andrew Natsios, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Human Rights Watch yesterday estimated that 1 million people have been driven from their homes and villages in the Darfur region and 110,000 have fled to neighboring Chad.

“The root cause of this humanitarian crisis is the Sudanese government’s campaign of ethnic cleansing against civilians of three ethnic groups,” it said.

Human Rights Watch said civilians of the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa groups have been targeted in the government’s campaign against Darfur rebels.

Mr. Natsios said the Bush administration has spent $95 million since February 2003 on relief efforts and will “provide even more resources in the future.”

Mr. Natsios noted that 30,000 tons of wheat supplied by the United States is now being transferred from a U.S. ship to trucks destined for the Darfur region.

He warned that three obstacles can still disrupt relief efforts: the government-supported Janjaweed militias, severe rain expected this month and a lack of resources to distribute the aid.

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