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Saudi Charity Denies Links To al-Qaida - 2002-03-13

An Islamic charity based in Saudi Arabia is denying charges by the United States that two of its branches are involved in financing terrorism, including the al-Qaida network.

The U.S. Treasury Department and the Saudi government have moved to block accounts of the Riyadh-based charity Al-Haramain, accusing branches in Somalia and Bosnia-Herzegovina of using money intended to help refugees to finance terrorism instead. They are accused of having ties to al-Qaida as well as an Egyptian group accused of massacring 55 tourists in Egypt five years ago.

But Pete Seda, Al-Haramain's director of American operations, denies the Islamic charity has ties to any alleged terrorists. "I want to clearly state it is against our charter, against our faith," he said. "We are not aware of any terrorist activities or terrorists who are involved in our organization and if we can find them we would like to eliminate them ourselves. This issue has to be dealt with." Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill praised the joint U.S.-Saudi effort to target the assets, saying it marks the first time the Saudi government has worked hand in hand with the United States in blocking assets of a group suspected of supporting terrorism.