The United States Wednesday called on the Jordanian government to reinstate a freeze on assets of the Palestinian radical group Hamas and several individuals associated with it. The freeze was reportedly ordered by the government earlier this month but revoked by Jordan's central bank.
The State Department says cutting off funds to Hamas is "crucial" to limiting its ability to conduct terrorist attacks and thwart progress toward Middle East peace, and it is urging Jordan to reinstate the asset freeze against the radical Palestinian Islamic group and its leaders.
The issue surfaced earlier this week with press accounts from Jordan that the country's central bank chief reportedly without the knowledge of other authorities in Amman, has rescinded a government freeze order issued earlier this month.
Officials here say Secretary of State Colin Powell raised the issue with Jordanian Foreign Minister Marwan Muasher in a meeting Tuesday. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said stopping funding to Hamas and other groups behind terrorist attacks has become a U.S. foreign policy priority.
"This has been a major part of our effort with countries in the region, with countries in Europe and, through the United Nations, with all countries of the world," he said. "Jordan has been an important ally in the war on terrorism, including the financial war on terrorism. We urge the government of Jordan to restore its order to freeze the assets of these Hamas leaders and charities. We think it's the right thing to do."
A senior U.S. official said Foreign Minister Muasher told Secretary Powell the Amman government was having "some political problems" with the asset freeze, and that Mr. Powell told him it is "very important" that it be kept and enforced.
He said U.S. diplomats have also raised the matter with officials in Amman, though it was unclear if the issue would figure in meetings at Camp David late Thursday and Friday between President Bush and Jordan's King Abdullah.
The Jordanian freeze order applied to Hamas, its founder Sheik Ahmad Yassin, and several other of its leaders along with five charities associated with the organization. The United States has frozen the assets of the same groups and individuals, and similar action has been taken by the European Union among others.