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Al-Qaida retains financial muscle to commit terrorism, head of UN expert panel warns

Al-Qaida retains financial muscle to commit terrorism, head of UN expert panel warns

Issuing a stern warning of the continued terrorist threat posed by Al-Qaida, the head of a United Nations expert panel today urged stricter measures against the group.

"No one should doubt that Al-Qaida continues to have sufficient resources at its disposal to carry out its operations in many areas of the world and to plan and launch further terrorist attacks," said Michael Chandler, the Chairman of the monitoring group dealing with the implementation of sanctions relating to Afghanistan. "We cannot overstate the risks posed by Al-Qaida, nor should we understate the complexity of the task of cutting off its funding."

Under Security Council resolution 1390, the group is mandated to monitor the implementation by Member States of updated sanctions against Usama bin Laden, the Al-Qaida organization, the Taliban and their associates. These measures require all countries to freeze the financial assets of individuals, groups or organizations on the sanctions committee list, and to continue a travel ban and arms embargo on the remaining elements of the Taliban, Al-Qaida network and its supporters.

Speaking at a press briefing at UN Headquarters in New York, Mr. Chandler cited reports of ongoing money transfers outside the formal banking system. "Islamic-based charities provide a source of funds from which Al-Qaida has and can easily continue to benefit, and many governments are reluctant to investigate charities unless they have definite evidence of an abuse of the charity's functions," he said, calling for a concerted effort to tackle the problem.

"There are growing indications of the concentration of Al-Qaida in north Africa, the Middle East, central, southern and southeast Asia," he warned. "We continue to be collectively faced by an unprecedented form of terrorism without frontiers, the members of which are quite ruthless and without principle when it comes to respecting people as humanity."

The panel has concentrated most of its efforts recent months on Europe, "a key area which Al-Qaida appears to have used for preparation to mount not only the 11 September attacks but also subsequently some smaller terrorist actions," he said.

Previewing a report which will be published in the coming days, Mr. Chandler also acknowledged that the international community had made great strides in dealing with Al-Qaida - "cutting off their economic resources, freezing assets, rounding up their operatives and preventing terrorist attacks." But while there had been victories in the war against terrorism, it had not yet been won, he said.

"There's much that still needs to be done, and there are some things that can and should be done better," Mr. Chandler said, noting that among its recommendations, the report calls for the wider use of the UN list of Taliban and Al-Qaida operatives subject to international sanctions. That list "should be maintained as the key and authoritative document, and it must contain as many of the names of members and operatives of Al-Qaida and their supporters as possible."

[In a related development, the Security Council committee overseeing the sanctions against the Taliban and Al-Qaida operatives has added 25 individuals and entities to the roster.]

As for obstructions to the arms embargo, Mr. Chandler said it was "no secret that it is a business that requires much stricter controls internationally" and called on governments to impose greater penalties on those breaking the ban.