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Germany Approves New Anti-Terrorism Measures - 2001-09-19

The German government approved Wednesday new anti-terrorism measures in a swift move to stop the country from being used as a base for attacks. The decision follows a parliamentary vote of solidarity with the United States following last week's terrorist acts in New York and Washington.

The German cabinet moved quickly to approve emergency measures against terrorists and raise extra funds for security.

Once the measures are approved by parliament, German officials will be able to ban any religious organization that supports criminal activities.

That law, which already applies to non-religious organizations, will also now be extended to cover criminal acts outside Germany, instead of just inside the country.

What's more, banks will be legally obliged to inform the police of suspicious accounts, which might be used to support international terrorism. German immigration authorities will be in closer touch with the security services on any visas that are issued.

And with the help of a new $1.4 billion tax on cigarettes and insurance, the government will also step up security at airports and German embassies abroad.

The money will also provide extra funding for the intelligence agencies - and to improve the army's readiness to react rapidly to terrorist crises.

The government has been under pressure to act fast, after raids in the port city of Hamburg last week revealed that at least two of the men suspected of involvement in last week's terrorist attacks in New York and Washington were students in German universities.

Although the suspects had not previously been known to the police, it is believed better intelligence might have pinpointed the networks that supported them.

German government ministers also said Wednesday that the measures will be followed up in the European Union, the Council of Europe and the United Nations with proposals to improve international cooperation in the fight against money laundering and terrorism.

The proposals, which received immediate support from the Christian Democrat opposition parties, are likely to be enacted quickly, although the new funding is only due to come out of next year's budget.

The cabinet's decisions follow a German parliamentary debate Wednesday in which deputies voted 565 to 40 to show the nation's solidarity with the United States in the worldwide fight against terrorism and agreed to provide military support if necessary.

But Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said the United States has a duty to inform and consult its allies before taking action.