G-20 finance ministers agree to adopt U.N. resolutions on halting terrorist financing

Sunday, November 18th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OTTAWA (AP) _ Finance ministers for the Group of 20 agreed Saturday to freeze assets of terrorists and implement a sweeping U.N. resolution against terrorist financing.

With dozens of riot police outside keeping protesters well away from the meeting site, officials from the European Union, the United States, China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and 15 other nations adopted an ``action plan on terrorist financing'' during talks Friday night and Saturday.

Canadian Finance Minister Paul Martin, the meeting's host, called the plan a decisive step in coordinating global resources and support for cutting off funds for groups like Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaida network, blamed for the Sept. 11 terror attacks on the United States.

``Every single member of the G-20, without exception, has signed on to that action plan,'' Martin said.

That included Saudi Arabia, which has supported the U.S.-led anti-terrorism campaign but faces internal pressure from hardline Muslims who share the views of bin Laden, a Saudi exile.

The Saudi delegation refused interview requests Saturday.

Martin said the G-20 nations agreed to move as quickly as possible on the anti-terrorism plan, which also calls for making public lists of terrorists with frozen assets and maintaining financial intelligence units in each country to track terrorist financing.

He conceded it would take time to get countries outside the G-20 to sign on, and ``even longer'' to halt the informal methods of money laundering used by terrorists.

``One of the things that's happening here is we're learning as we're going,'' Martin said.

The meeting originally was to have been held in India, but was moved to Canada's capital after Indian officials said they were concerned about security following the Sept. 11 attacks.

Outside in the streets, hundreds of protesters opposed to the U.S.-led military campaign in Afghanistan and what they say are the ill effects of globalization on the world's poor marched through the city and burned U.S. flags at a downtown rally.

Police arrested 14 people after demonstrators knocked down metal barricades blocking streets around the meeting sites, and police responded with tear gas, rubber bullets, pepper spray and water blasted from a fire hose. Eight people were detained Friday when protesters smashed windows at a McDonald's restaurant.

No injuries were reported Saturday, according to police, though at least one protester was seen bleeding from the head.

International Monetary Fund managing director Horst Koehler predicted a ``mild recession'' in the U.S. economy, the world's largest, in the second half of 2001, but said recovery was expected in 2002.

The closed-door G-20 meeting began a weekend of discussions by the International Monetary Fund and World Bank also focusing on the lagging global economy. The IMF-World Bank gathering was postponed from a session that had been set for Washington in late September.

Martin said the ministers agreed to have deputies begin studying specific proposals for debt relief and ways to make countries and lending institutions more responsible for their loans.

The protesters were demanding that rich nations cancel the debts of poor countries and halt support for they consider socially and environmentally destructive economic projects.

An official statement from the meeting called for the ``earliest possible resolution'' of Argentina's debt problem. The only country mentioned by name in the statement, Argentina is struggling to keep from defaulting on its $132 billion in foreign debts.

Martin said the ministers had ``very, very strong confidence'' the world economy would do well in the medium- and long-term, though he said ``there is uncertainty'' for the near term.

In a statement to Saturday's meeting, U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill said there were signs pointing to a U.S. economic recovery early next year.

``The fundamental strengths of the U.S. economy _ our strong macroeconomic foundations and our dynamic and flexible labor and capital markets _ remain intact,'' he said.

The Group of 20, created in 1999 to address international financial concerns, consists of the 15-member European Union and 19 nations: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The IMF and World Bank also participate.