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World leaders focus on terrorists' funding

Financial experts urged world leaders Wednesday to create a new international institution  to study how terrorists raise money and find ways to cut the funds to al-Qaida and other violent movements.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Financial experts urged world leaders Wednesday to create a new international institution under U.N. auspices to study how terrorists raise money so ways can be found to cut the funds to al-Qaida and other violent movements.

The draft recommendation, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press, and experts attending a terrorism conference said that some measures have been taken to curb terrorist financing — but not enough.

"Terrorist financing has not been recognized as a priority in the fight against terrorism," said Loretta Napoleoni, an expert on terrorist financing. "It would be much more efficient if we blocked the money. And we haven't done that."

World leaders and experts at the four-day summit on democracy, terrorism and security are grappling with ways to combat violence without jeopardizing human rights.

Fighting terrorism financing was seen as a possibility but is complicated, in part because terrorists raise funds by using legitimate businesses, besides kidnapping, drug dealing and credit card fraud.

"We don't have a clear image of how the money of terrorists moves around," said Petre Roman, a former prime minister of Romania. "We know that the most terrible acts have been committed with very little money."

The train bombings in Madrid on March 11, 2004, cost as little as $1,300, Roman said, while the Sept. 11, 2001, suicide attacks in the United States cost no more than $500,000.

"Without an international effort, we cannot tackle this problem efficiently," he said. "We need to know how to pursue this money, and this cannot be done within the current legal framework."

Former French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin stressed that international cooperation must take place within "the rule of law and respecting civil rights because they are the soul of democracy."

Jospin and others said the conference's draft recommendations will address the blocking of terrorists' financial networks.

The finance working group experts suggested that in addition to creating an independent finance center under U.N. auspices, a judicial review process should be put into place to place anti-terrorism measures within a legal framework.

The Club de Madrid group of former heads of government organized the conference and timed it to coincide with the anniversary of the Madrid train bombing, an attack that killed 191 people and wounded more than 1,500.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan was to present a special U.N. report on terrorism at the conference Thursday. Other world leaders to arrive Wednesday include Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales will represent President Bush.