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Homeland Security

29 July 2003

Nations Warned to be Vigilant Against al Qaeda

U.S. ambassador to U.N. says international partnership is essential

By Judy Aita
Washington File United Nations Correspondent

United Nations -- Emphasizing that the al Qaeda terrorist network remains an international threat, the chairman of a U.N. Security Council committee overseeing efforts to block the terrorist organization's financing and movements urged nations to remain vigilant because al Qaeda associates are active in a significant number of nations.

Ambassador Heraldo Munoz of Chile, chairman of the Al Qaeda/Taliban Sanctions Committee, warned nations against complacency and slackening their efforts to counter al Qaeda.

Only 64 nations "barely 30 percent of the members of the United Nations" have reported their efforts under the sanctions regime to the United Nations as required, the chairman said. "The overall response has so far been disappointing."

"According to information available to the monitoring group, individuals or entities associated with al Qaeda are believed to be active in some way in a significant number of the states that have not yet submitted a report" to the United Nations, Munoz said during a public U.N. Security Council meeting on the sanctions committee's work.

Al Qaeda, the Taliban and their associated terrorist groups are still able to acquire adequate quantities of weapons and explosives where and when they need them. This has been clearly demonstrated by recent attacks in Saudi Arabia, Chechnya, Morocco, Yemen, Afghanistan, and Bali, he said.

"Al Qaeda has a built-in resilience and flexibility, which is contributing to its survival as a global network," he said. "This, in turn, encourages support for the network among elements of the population in many countries, producing sympathy for the ideology, new recruits to the movement, and funding."

U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Negroponte said al Qaeda terrorist activities in 2003 "serve as a tragic reminder that our counter-terrorism work remains unfinished."

"Attacks in diverse parts of the world reflect the true global dimension of the al Qaeda network; they also serve to remind us that only through international cooperation can we prevent future attacks. No single nation can counter the al Qaeda threat on its own. Partnership is essential," Negroponte told the Security Council.

Freezing terrorist assets remains a top U.S. priority, Negroponte said.

"Approximately $135 million in terrorist assets have been frozen worldwide since the tragic events of September 11, 2001," he said. "While this is a sizeable figure, we recognize that more can be done to find, follow, and freeze terrorist funds. Continued success in tracking terrorist financing will require international vigilance."

"Improved sanctions implementation made possible by vigilant Security Council oversight and member state responsiveness will send the right message to all governments and translate into improved implementation," Negroponte said. "Successfully countering the al Qaeda threat, a deadly threat to all of us, demands as much."

Munoz said the sale of heroin and opiates from Afghanistan continues to be an important source of funds for al Qaeda.

"The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime forecast bumper crops of opium poppies both last year and again this year," Munoz said. "A large proportion of these harvests emanate from provinces in which support for the Taliban and its ideology has been strong. Thus the probability cannot be ignored of a substantial proportion of the profits from these illicit harvests going to 'warlords' sympathetic to the Taliban and al Qaeda."

Munoz also said the sanctions committee is going to pay closer attention to charitable foundations when working with governments.

He also said that governments must move to have greater control over and require more scrutiny of accounting methods of charitable foundations to ensure that humanitarian activities are not abused by al Qaeda operatives.

"Despite the good intentions of such organizations when established, and for much of their genuine operations, there is sufficient evidence for the [Security] Council to be concerned about some of the downstream disbursement of funds," Munoz said.

He also warned governments to be alert for individuals who left al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan or camps run by other associated groups such as Jemaah Islamiyah and have returned home or to other countries where they have gone underground, ready to mount attacks at later date.

Munoz encouraged nations to notify the committee if they know of such individuals so their names can be posted on the Security Council's watch list in order to limit their ability to move around freely.

"They are a constant source of danger for all states if allowed to go unchecked," the chairman said. "States are urged, therefore, to face this reality and bring these individuals to the notice of all law enforcement and security agencies through the medium of the committee's list," he said.

Negroponte said that the United States can do better in a number of areas as well.

"We are still learning how to address better the threats at our borders, in our skies, and across our territory," the U.S. ambassador said. "Our new Department of Homeland Security has invested significant resources to monitor the flow of information, and targets individuals moving into and out of our country."

"We remain concerned about the status of our seaports, an area of recognized vulnerability that our Congress has spent time investigating. And we also realize that coordination with our geographic neighbors, Canada and Mexico, must be supplemented by robust international cooperation that extends beyond our nation's physical boundaries," he said.

The al Qaeda sanctions committee was first set up in 1999 under Resolution 1267 to target individuals and entities belonging to or associated with the al Qaeda terrorist group and the then-ruling Taliban in Afghanistan in an effort to stop the activities of those groups by freezing assets, imposing travel bans and establishing an arms embargo. In the ensuing years, the council passed additional resolutions to make the effort more effective.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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