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US Official Calls for More Progress in Fight Against Terror Financing

A top Bush administration official is calling on nations in the Middle East to do more to crack down on terrorism financing.

At a hearing of the Senate Banking Committee, Treasury undersecretary Stuart Levey praised efforts by some countries in the region to pass money laundering laws, but he said more progress must be made in the fight against terrorism financing.

Mr. Levey said some countries are not adequately enforcing money laundering laws, and have yet to establish controls over informal cash transfers.

He said cash couriers are a particular threat because they are being used to fund the insurgency in Iraq. "It is critical that Gulf countries and countries throughout the Middle East lower their reporting thresholds for cross-border transfers of cash and enforce these provisions aggressively," he said.

Mr. Levey praised Saudi Arabia for its counterterrorism cooperation, particularly since the terrorist bombings in Riyadh in May 2003, but he said the United States continues to have concerns. "The committee is well aware the challenges posed by terrorist financing from within Saudi Arabia are among the most serious we have faced. Even today we believe that private Saudi donors may be a significant source of terrorist funding, including the insurgency in Iraq. Saudi Arabia based and funded organizations also remain a key source for the promotion of ideologies used by terrorists and violent extremists around the world to justify their hate-filled ideologies," he said.

Mr. Levey said the United States is pressing Saudi Arabia and other nations to take greater steps to stop the flow of terror money.

He said success will be made not by the number of laws put on the books, but by changes made on the ground. Real progress, he said, will come in the form of cash seizures, account blockings, and arrests.