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East Asia, Pacific Conference Takes Aim at Terrorist Financing - 2002-12-17


Officials from more than 30 Asian-Pacific nations are meeting to find ways to cut off the flow of money to terrorists. They have gathered on the Indonesian island of Bali, where nearly 200 people died in a bombing attack two months ago.

Indonesia and Australia are vowing to crack down on terrorist funding in Asia. The two countries are co-hosts of a two-day conference on combating money laundering and terrorist financing that began in Bali on Tuesday.

"This conference is a step forward in the battle against crime and terror," said Chris Ellison, Australia's justice minister, who opened the conference. "It sends a clear signal to the world that Australia and Indonesia and other countries here today are totally committed to the safety and security of our region."

Nearly 200 people died when terrorists blew up a popular tourist nightspot on Bali in October. Most of the casualties were Australians and Indonesians.

Indonesian police have arrested several suspects in the attack, and say at least some of them have links to Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), a Southeast Asian militant organization. The United States and some security experts say JI has ties to the international al-Qaida terror network.

Indonesia's Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda said cutting off their financing is the key to fighting terrorists. "In this difficult but necessary endeavor, we can make valuable contributions to the global fight against terrorism, and to the building of a more peaceful and more secure world," he said.

He said that terrorism is not a "vocation for paupers" but only small amounts of money are needed to finance large attacks. Mr. Wirajuda said the Bali bombers needed only $30,000 to carry out the attack.

The Asian Development Bank has helped Asian nations try to stop money laundering for years. But an ADB advisor said tracking terrorist funding has proved difficult, because banking records are not transparent and many nations do not have extradition treaties.

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