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Homeland Security

PRESS CONFERENCE BY CHAIRMAN OF SECURITY COUNCIL COMMITTEE ON SANCTIONS AGAINST AL-QAIDA, TALIBAN

Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York

25 May 2004

Following his report to the Security Council this morning, the Chairman of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1267, to oversee implementation of sanctions imposed on Al-Qaida and the Taliban, Heraldo Muñoz (Chile), briefed correspondents at a Headquarters press conference this afternoon.

He said that reporting to the Council, as he does every 130 days, he had focused, first of all, on the status reporting by countries on the implementation of the sanctions regime. He had also described the Committee’s visits, most recently to Spain, Algeria, Tunisia and Senegal, and addressed the reasons for non-reporting by certain States.

Among positive developments, he mentioned the fact that since his last report in January, the number of reporting countries had increased substantially. Thirty-three additional reports had been submitted, bringing to 126 the total number of reports from Member States.

In addition, he continued, the Committee continued to receive letters explaining reasons for non-reporting and announcing forthcoming reports. In other words, the resolution of 30 January was beginning to have a positive effect, and his projection was that very few non-reporting countries would remain. [On
30 January, the Council adopted resolution 1526, which created a new, more demanding framework for the Committee’s future activities, in particular envisioning deadlines and circulation of names of countries that did not comply.]

The Committee’s preliminary conclusion at this point was that it was not for the lack of political will that countries failed to comply, he said. Rather, it was the lack of resources and technical capacity, or failure of coordination. It was necessary to provide those countries with assistance. In some cases, there was confusion on the part of countries that reporting to the 1267 Committee was the same as reporting to the Counter-Terrorism Committee. Thus, it was important to make clear to Member States the difference between the Sanctions Committee and the Counter-Terrorism Committee.

Turning to the Committee’s trips, he said that it had been a positive experience. Some of the countries visited by the Committee were doing a good job of combating terrorism. A few of them had complained that cooperation, particularly with Europe, was “a bit one-way” -- not as symmetrical as it should be. They required more assistance and information-sharing.

Interesting measures implemented by States included not only control over charities and non-governmental entities by knowing where the funding came from, but also a requirement for them to keep files for six years. In some countries, the Committee had heard what it had known before: import/export companies were being used to channel funds for terrorism. A growing connection had also been shown between criminal acts, including kidnapping for money, and terrorism. The Committee intended to continue its visits in the following months, with Asia and the Middle East among its possible destinations.

Asked if the Committee could ensure that monitoring of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and charities would not be used for intimidation against legitimate entities, Mr. Muñoz said that the Council had made it clear that fight against terrorism had to be carried out with due respect for human rights, within the framework of the rule of law. Putting attention on charities and NGOs, the Committee was simply recalling one of the paragraphs of Council resolution 1526, which had asked countries to do so. Obviously, the Committee did not want that to be abused. However, requiring charities and NGOs to keep their financial files for six years and to ensure proper auditing seemed reasonable.

To several questions about the Committee’s plans to visit the Middle East and Asia, he replied that final plans had yet to be made. While some countries had expressed interest in receiving the members of the Committee, there were some other countries that the Committee itself would like to visit. On the whole, the Committee tried to distribute its visits among all the regions. It did not want to go only to countries that appeared to represent “a problem”. It was also necessary to visit nations actively involved in anti-terrorism efforts and share experiences with many countries.

A correspondent commented that terrorist activities had actually intensified in recent weeks and asked if the number of the groups involved has increased.

Mr. Muñoz said that while he had no sense of growth, he had a clear perception that there had been a decentralization of Al-Qaida, which was no longer a hierarchical organization. Rather, it was a diverse network of up to 30 or
40 smaller groups, with full operational autonomy. Obviously, in today’s situation, recruiting was continuing. Despite the blows it had suffered, far from being reduced, he was afraid Al-Qaida would continue to be a menace and a terrorist threat for some time to come.

Asked if Iraq was a priority in the efforts to deal with Al-Qaida and if the United States had provided information about the situation in that respect, he replied that the Committee had not been on the ground in Iraq, for obvious reasons. Thus, he could not say anything with any degree of certainty. He could only refer to the information that had been provided by the Coalition leaders and what he knew from various other sources. There was a variety of groups operating in Iraq, including Saddam Hussein loyalists, foreign fighters who took advantage of the situation in the country to promote their own causes, and other groups, including nationalists.

Was the Committee working with such organizations as Interpol? a correspondent asked. Mr. Muñoz responded that closer contacts with Interpol were being considered. However, that organization did not necessarily focus on terrorism. Connections with the Interpol could help in some aspects of the Sanctions Committee’s work, but not on the whole range of its activities, including freezing of assets and enforcement of travel bans and arms embargo.

A correspondent referred to reports that Al-Qaida had fully rebuilt after its losses in Afghanistan in 2001 and that its membership was now estimated at over 18,000. He wanted to know if its numbers were growing because of the situation in Iraq. “Are we winning or losing, and what is the impact of the situation in Iraq on the war on terror?” he asked.

Mr. Muñoz replied that, indeed, it was possible that nowadays, there were new members in that increasingly decentralized movement. The figure provided by the correspondent was a respectable estimate, which was probably close to reality. How many would remain mobilized and committed in the long term would depend on the success of the fight against terrorism and prevention.

Of increasing importance were things done not solely through military means, he added, but also in the areas of diplomacy, development and even ideology, as well as sanctions that the Committee was working to implement. He agreed with those who believed that it was time to put an end to the idea that there was a North/South divide as far as terrorism was concerned, that there was a clash of civilizations. A more unified approach was needed, and that was why the United Nations was so important.

To a question about cooperation among the countries of Maghreb, as well as between those countries and Europe, he said that there was a great deal of cooperation and exchange of information among the countries of Maghreb themselves. In fact, a counter-terrorism centre in Algeria would become operational in September. As for those countries’ relations with Spain after 11 March, they had increased enormously. The Maghreb countries would also like to increase their cooperation with the European Union.

Would the Europeans be providing resources, and Maghreb countries providing information? a correspondent asked. Mr. Muñoz replied that those countries wanted that relationship to be as symmetrical as possible. It was not merely that they wanted cooperation for information -– that was not the case. Rather, they wanted intensified cooperation, including information-sharing.

Asked how he would rate the Committee’s cooperation with the Saudis, he said that it had increased noticeably. In fact, names had been submitted to the Committee’s list -– something that had never been done before.

To a request to provide an analysis of the roots of an increase in the Al-Qaida numbers, he said that it was a question for a seminar. It was not serious to attempt to provide “a snap answer” on such a complex issue, which involved dignity, poverty, alienation and, in some cases, fundamentalism.

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