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 REMARKS BY TREASURY SECRETARY PAUL O'NEILL ON NEW U.S.-SAUDI ARABIA TERRORIST FINANCING DESIGNATIONS


3/11/2002

Today, on the six month anniversary of the September 11 attacks, we take a new step in the war on terrorist financing, making our first joint designation of a financial supporter of terrorism. Today we are blocking the accounts of the Somalia and Bosnia-Herzegovina branches of the Saudi Arabia-based Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation. While the Saudi headquarters for this private charitable entity is dedicated to promoting Islamic teachings, we and our Saudi Arabian allies have determined that the Somalia and Bosnia-Herzegovina branches of Al-Haramain have been engaged in supporting terrorist activities and terrorist organizations such as al-Qaida, AIAI (al-Itihaad al-Islamiya), and others.

Few deceits are more reprehensible than the act of collecting charity from well-intentioned donors, and then diverting those funds to support hatred and cruelty. As I said during my visit to the Gulf, misusing charity funds to support terrorism harms the people who gave the donation, harms the people who should have received it and is dangerous to us all. Organizations that pervert the name of charity are an affront to us all, and we will find them, expose them, and shut them down.

Today the Saudi government is joining us in this blocking action. We have had significant co-operation in blocking accounts of those named by the United States, and our European allies have made designations of their own. As the first joint blocking we've undertaken, today's action is a sign of the growing strength of the anti-terror coalition, appropriate to mark the six month anniversary of the September 11 attacks.

I just returned from a visit to the Persian Gulf, where I had the opportunity to meet with King Fahd and Crown Prince Abdullah, others in the Saudi government, and the leadership in Bahrain, Kuwait and the UAE. Throughout the region I encountered a great recognition that the September attacks weren't only an attack on the United States, but were an attack on the civilized world. The governments there, like elsewhere in the world, are eager to cut off terrorists' access to funds, wherever we may find them. We all agree that we have a responsibility to safeguard charities, so that we can assure people giving to charities that their donations will be used only for their intended good purposes.

This joint designation marks a new level of coordination in the international cooperation that has characterized the fight against international terrorism to date.

I thank the Saudi leadership for taking this step with us, and I hope this is only the first of many similar joint designations we will undertake with other allied nations. On this, the six-month anniversary of the September 11 attacks, as we remember the victims and the horror of that day, we recognize that we still have much to do to prevent such an outrage from ever occurring again.

The United States has blocked more than $34 million in terrorist assets, and other nations around the world have blocked more than $70 million. More important than the dollars found in the accounts is the shutting down of these pipelines for much larger amounts of money. We are implementing new safeguards at home to identify suspicious financial transactions and we are improving information sharing within the US government and among our allied governments. We are engaging the entire world to examine and improve the safeguards on their own financial system. We will continue to perfect the tools in this financial war and to increase our coordination so that we can stop the flow of funds that support terrorism.

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