A House lawmaker, backed by statements from Juan Zarate, the Treasury Department Asst. Secretary stated that Saudi Arabia is being less than
cooperative in the fight to cut off financing to terrorists. Mr. Zarate also said that there was no direct link between al-Qaida and the illicit
diamond trade in Africa but did not rule one out. The US is concerned that Bin Laden could be involved and financed thru trade in diamonds and
Rep. Sue Kelly, R-N.Y., who heads the subcommittee, asked Zarate at the hearing whether the Saudis have followed through on promises to take up such
measures as setting up a financial intelligence unit and seizing assets of individuals believed to help fund terrorism.
Despite Saudi Arabia's announcement in 2002 that it had established such an intelligence unit, there still appears to be no unit operating, Kelly
said. She said the absence of one likely "slowed or entirely prevented action against terrorist activity."
Zarate said the Saudis had shown improved cooperation in freezing assets of suspect charities and other measures and "are taking this issue very
seriously." However, he added: "We are constantly working with the Saudis to ensure" that they follow through.
Spokesmen at the Saudi Embassy in Washington had no immediate comment.
Since the U.S. government intensified efforts against terrorist financing after the 9/11 attacks, its relationship with Saudi Arabia has been
delicate. The long-standing ally - which is also the birthplace of bin Laden and 15 of the 19 Sept. 11 hijackers - has at times appeared reluctant to
be a full partner in the U.S.-organized anti-terror coalition.
Al-Qaida launched a campaign in Saudi Arabia in May 2003, bombing Westerners' housing compounds in the capital, Riyadh.
Earlier this month, the kingdom played host to an international anti-terrorism conference, where Saudi leaders expressed their commitment to fighting
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Saudi Arabia may say their are our friend and claim to be fighting and doing their best to assist in the War against Terrorism, but actions speaks
louder than words and their actions are clearly not at the level of cooperation that we would like to see.