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Easing Sanctions on Bin Laden Associates Urged

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By Colum Lynch
Special to The Washington Post
Friday, August 16, 2002; Page A19

UNITED NATIONS, Aug. 15 -- The United States today proposed easing U.N. financial sanctions on suspected associates of Saudi exile Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda network to enable them to pay for food, medicine, rent, taxes and other basic expenses.

The move follows months of criticism from European governments and human rights advocates that individuals whose assets were ordered frozen by the Security Council were deprived of the means to meet their daily living expenses or to hire lawyers to help them challenge the charges.

The 15-member council voted in January to reinforce a travel, arms and financial embargo on al Qaeda and erstwhile members of the Taliban, the former Afghan rulers who once harbored bin Laden and his followers, to prevent them from mounting new attacks against the United States and its allies.

The proposed U.S. draft resolution, which was distributed to Security Council members today, has broad support from European Union members, American and European diplomats say. The United States is planning to put the resolution up for a vote next week.

The resolution would grant governments the authority to determine how much money their nationals would need to meet their "basic expenses, including payments for foodstuffs, rent or mortgage, medicines and medical treatment, taxes, insurance premiums, and public utility charges." It would also allow them to use their personal funds to pay for legal representation.

In the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the council backed an American initiative to add scores of names to a list of more than 260 individuals and organizations that are targeted by the sanctions. At the time, the United States supplied virtually no evidence to support its claims.

Since then, Sweden, Canada and other U.N. members with nationals on the list have questioned whether the United States has provided sufficient evidence that their citizens deserve to be punished.

They have also sought, with limited success, to persuade the United States to require that governments furnish evidence that individuals are responsible for knowingly abetting terrorists before adding their names to the U.N. sanctions list. U.S. officials say that providing such proof could compromise sensitive intelligence sources.

Canada recently secured the removal from the list of Liban M. Hussein, a Somali-born Canadian who operated a branch of the Barakat money-transfer company with alleged links to bin Laden, challenging American claims that he knowingly aided terrorist activities.

Swedish authorities and lawyers are talking with the United States about removing three Somali-born Swedes from the list.

"Their only association with a terrorist network is that they were managers of the al-Barakat network," said Anders Kruse, a senior official in the Swedish Foreign Ministry. "No one has alleged that there was any direct link between Sweden's al-Barakat and the al Qaeda network."

2002 The Washington Post Company

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