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France: Europe Should Step Up Fight Against  Financial Networks Bankrolling Terror


A senior U.S. treasury official said Monday Europe should step up the fight against financial networks that bankroll terrorism and weapons proliferation. Stuart Levey, Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Crimes is delivering this message to three countries on his European tour. Lisa Bryant has more from Paris.

Undersecretary Levey says there are U.N. resolutions in place to combat financing of terrorism and weapons proliferation, and European countries simply need to follow them. As an example, he points to updated U.N. resolution 1617, which deals with cracking down on financial networks bankrolling al-Qaida, and the Taleban in Afghanistan.

"This provides us with a real opportunity to use our financial tools as best we can," Mr. Levey says. "This is a tool which is very well defined in what it requires. It requires countries to freeze without delay the assets of
individuals who are affiliated with al-Qaida and the Taleban. For a number of reasons, this has not been aggressively pursued."

Mr. Levey spoke to reporters in Paris, his first leg of a European trip that also includes stops in Italy and Austria.

Terrorist bombings on public transport systems in Spain in March 2004 and in Britain last summer has claimed almost 250 lives and injured hundreds more.

Mr. Leveys visit here coincided with the arrests of nine suspected Islamist extremists outside Paris Monday morning. Those arrested are reportedly members of the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, a radical Algerian organization. Police suspect they were planning a terrorist attack in
France.

Their arrest is one of dozens against suspected extremists in France and other European countries this year.

While countries like Britain, Italy and France are toughening their antiterrorism laws, the EU is having a hard time passing European-wide antiterrorism legislation. Undersecretary Levey called the EU process, which calls for consensus, cumbersome.

"That's a process that needs to be streamlined and energized," Mr. Levey says. "I think Europeans agree with me that has not been particularly successful and needs to be improved upon."

Even agreeing what is a terrorist organization can be problematic. Washington, for example, believes one charity operating in France is a front for Hamas. France, however, disagrees.

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