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Homeland Security

PRESS BRIEFING BY CHAIRMAN OF SECURITY COUNCIL AL-QAIDA SANCTIONS COMMITTEE

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

15 February 2005

Member States were now more aware of the need to cooperate with the Security Council Committee responsible for the implementation of sanctions against Al-Qaida, the Taliban and their associates –- that was an encouraging conclusion of the second report by the team of independent experts assisting that body, correspondents were told at a Headquarters press briefing this morning.

The document was presented to the press by the Coordinator of the eight-member Al-Qaida and Taliban Sanctions Monitoring Team, Richard Barrett; and the Chairman of the “Al-Qaida and the Taliban Committee”, Cesar Mayoral (Argentina). The Team submitted its first report to the Committee on 31 July 2004, and its third report is due by 30 June this year.

Established by the terms of resolution 1267 (1999) to monitor sanctions against members of Al-Qaida, the Taliban and associated individuals and entities, the Committee is one of the Security Council’s three terrorism-related subsidiary bodies. The other two are: the Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC), which deals with the issue of terrorism on a broader and preventive level; and the Committee established under the terms of Council resolution 1540 to focuson the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction to non-State actors.

The sanctions against members of Al-Qaida, the Taliban and their associates include the assets freeze, the arms embargo and the travel ban against the individuals and entities included in the Consolidated List, which is compiled on the basis of the information provided by Member States.

“The impression we have from many Member States is that not only do Member States understand their obligations to implement sanctions as laid down by Security Council resolution 1267, but they are also much more aware of the national benefit of doing so”, Mr. Barrett said. Unfortunately, many States around the world faced the problem of terrorism, and they were all very conscious indeed of the need to work with others. Al-Qaida was a phenomenon that observed no borders, and it was even harder to track now than it had been a year or two ago, when it perhaps had more structure and more coherent leadership.

Throughout the report, the Monitoring Team addressed two fundamental issues: the extent of global implementation of Al-Qaida and Taliban sanctions; and whether and how the sanctions measures could and should be improved.

Mr. Barrett said that the basic premise of the document was that the sanctions were useful. Certainly, a great deal of work was being done internationally on financial measures, and the engagement of the official -- and to some extent unofficial -– banking systems was encouraging. Much thought was also being given to means of improving the travel ban and the arms embargo measures. The travel ban, in particular, could benefit from closer cooperation with INTERPOL, and that was one of the recommendations that had emerged in the past months.

In connection with the arms embargo, he stressed the importance of the work of the 1540 Committee and emphasized the links between the two Committees in that respect. The members of the Team were contributing to that work, where they could, because “the biggest fear we all have is the possibility of terrorists getting hold of some means of causing mass casualties”, including chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear materials.

Responding to a question, he said that he had referred to chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear elements and not to weapons of mass destruction, because he did not think that Al-Qaida could realistically get hold of a large bomb, or missile with a nuclear warhead. Its members were much more likely to get hold of some components that were used in the production of weapons of mass destruction. One of the problems was that members of Al-Qaida were not much concerned about their own lives. Thus, if one of them got possession of a highly toxic or radioactive object and released it in the centre of a large city, it would have a big effect not only on him, but on a large number of innocent bystanders, as well.

Asked to comment on a reference in the report to Al-Qaida targeting sub-Saharan Africa for recruiting and establishing bases, he said that the area had been identified as a particularly vulnerable one. It was not densely populated, and there were groups of people sympathetic to the Al-Qaida cause. While concrete numbers “could be a guess”, it was important to remember that it did not take that many people to cause a problem. Aware of the danger, the governments of the countries involved were very keen on working closely with the Security Council.

To several questions about the Consolidated List, he said that at the moment, there were 321 individuals on it, including 178 Al-Qaida and 143 Taliban members. Out of the 115 entities on the List, 114 belonged to Al-Qaida. In general, the numbers were much higher, for it was difficult to identify terrorists before they achieved notoriety by committing terrorist acts. One of the Committee’s objectives was to encourage countries to put names on the Consolidated List. While it could never be an exhaustive list, it could be a broader one. In the coming months, the list was expected to grow larger, because several Member States had indicated their intention to submit names to the Committee.

Some of the language of the report was quite alarming, a correspondent said. For example, the document said that it was only a matter of time before there was an attack involving biological, nuclear or radiological weapons. To that, Mr. Barrett said that all professionals, including representatives of security agencies dealing with Al-Qaida and the Taliban, agreed on the likelihood of such an attack. Al-Qaida had made statements in the past that it was interested in acquiring that sort of technology.

Asked if he knew about movements or whereabouts of Bin Laden, he said that he did not know exactly where he was. What the Team was concerned with was the fact that, wherever he was, he should not be able to evade the sanctions -- that is, travel freely, acquire weapons, or send money to support terrorist activities.

To several questions about the role of the Internet and the use of modern technology by terrorists, he said that one should not think about Al-Qaida members and supporters as being badly educated. Many of them were very adept at using computers and the Internet. The observations of the Team were based on the fact that it was very easy for people nowadays to spread their message “very widely”. When such a message was an incitement to violence, then it was important to address the issue. Thinking about the future, the Team had flagged it as one of the aspects that probably needed to be addressed to limit the dangers of terrorism. However, it was an extremely difficult issue, and it was also necessary to consider how it could be done without infringing on the basic principles of human rights and individual freedoms.

Regarding the fraudulent use of documents and identity theft, he said that those were worldwide phenomena. INTERPOL had recorded about 6 million documents that had been stolen or fraudulently obtained. People on the Consolidated List were not likely to travel under their own identity, and all the governments needed to support the efforts of INTERPOL to tackle the problem.

Asked to comment on the allegation that the war in Iraq had actually led to an increase in terrorist activities, he said that Al-Qaida was certainly using the situation in Iraq to promote its goals and recruit people. That was true for many areas of instability.

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