- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 3, 2004

Saudi charity rules

Saudi Arabia has created a commission to regulate Muslim charities in the kingdom to prevent them from funneling money to terrorists, Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan said yesterday.

He said King Fahd last week ordered the creation of the Saudi National Commission for Relief and Charity Work Abroad to take over all of the overseas operations of charities, many of which have been suspected of deliberately or unwittingly funding terrorists.

The commission will allow Saudi citizens to donate money to charities, as required by Islam, while assuring that the money reaches the poor, he said. Prince Bandar said no Saudi charity has been allowed to send money out of the kingdom for the past eight months.

“We need to send money to those without food, medicine or shelter, but we also have to be certain that the money we send will go to the right people for the right purpose,” he said in a statement announcing the commission.

“This new commission will ensure that terrorists cannot take advantage of the desperately needed humanitarian aid that we provide.”

The Saudi Embassy said regulations already in place require charities to maintain only one bank account with only one signatory.

Saudi and U.S. officials have been working closely for years to investigate and outlaw certain groups accused of misappropriating charitable gifts.

The United States last month added four foreign branches of the Saudi-based Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation to a list of groups and individuals suspected of funding terrorism. Saudi Arabia last year ordered the foundation to close all its overseas branches, but the U.S. Treasury Department said the group still was operating in Indonesia, Kenya, Pakistan and Tanzania.

“The four branches have cloaked themselves in the virtue of charity and have done so only to fund and support terrorist organizations around the world,” Treasury Secretary John W. Snow said in a news conference with Adel al-Jubeir, foreign policy adviser to Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah.

Earlier this month, Al-Haramain and two other charities with suspected terrorist ties — the International Islamic Relief Organization and the Muslim World League — hired Washington lawyer Wendel Belew to try to repair their image in the United States.

The Hill newspaper reported that Mr. Belew has met with Treasury and Justice department officials and plans to talk to members of Congress who have been most critical of the Saudi charities.

The charities want “to deal openly with some of the issues that have been raised,” Mr. Belew told the Hill. “We’re trying also to establish some communication between the U.S. and the charities themselves.”

Long haul in Haiti

Temporary deployment of U.S. Marines will do little to help Haiti recover from decades of destruction and dictatorship, a leading analyst on the impoverished Caribbean island said yesterday.

“Americans generally fail to see the depth of the crisis in Haiti,” said Phillip McLean, deputy director of the Americas program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The overthrow of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide is only the latest crisis to afflict the island, which, ironically, this year marks the 200th anniversary of its independence from France.

“The country sadly suffers from two centuries of misgovernment and human abuse of the land,” Mr. McLean said. “Seen from an airplane, it is a brown island in a tropical sea, stripped of vegetation and topsoil. We should know that a people so near our shore suffers such poverty.”

He urged the Bush administration to devote attention to Haiti, saying short deployments of U.S. troops will do little to help.

“We need to be involved in helping Haiti over the long haul and not deceive ourselves into believing that brief stays by our armed forces will solve the problem,” he said.

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

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