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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

U.K. unveils plan to freeze terror funds

The man expected to succeed Tony Blair as prime minister outlined new measures for combating terrorism Tuesday, targeting charities exploited by terrorists to finance attacks and using classified intelligence to freeze bank accounts.

"There should be no safe haven in the world for terrorists and there should be no hiding place anywhere in the world for those that fund them," treasury chief Gordon Brown told an audience at the Chatham House think tank in London.

Brown emphasized the shared values between the United States and Britain in fighting terror and promised to make security a high priority in his review of government spending.

"Closer cooperation between America and Europe in addressing the roots of terrorism should lead to practical new approaches to isolating extremism," Brown said.

Britain has frozen nearly 200 bank accounts suspected of being linked to terrorism since the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States. In the last year alone, businesses have also reported more than 2,000 suspicious transactions leading to 650 investigations in Britain and overseas, he said.

More than $900,000 of suspected terrorist funds have now been frozen, said Brown's top deputy, Economic Secretary Ed Balls.

As part of the new measures, Brown said Britain would now use classified intelligence to freeze assets of those suspected of having links to terrorism, Brown said. The measures also allow law enforcement agencies to keep their sources of information secret after it is used to track down and freeze bank accounts, Balls said in a statement to parliament.

The treasury also plans to publish a report with recommendations to protect charities from becoming unwittingly involved in financing terrorism. In August, Britain's Charity Commission, on the advice of the treasury, launched an investigation into the Islamic charity Crescent Relief over suspected links to a plot to blow up U.S-bound airliners.

In addition, Brown said the government would tighten controls at border checkpoints by developing an integrated electronic border security system, linking biometric passports and visas with electronic checks on entry and exit.

"We need to have in place the best systems for knowing who is coming in and out of our country and for assuring each citizen that their identity is their own and not abused by someone else," Brown said.

Touching on the issue of how long terror suspects can be held in custody for questioning without charge, Brown advocated extending detentions beyond the current 28-day time period.

"I believe that if the evidence shows it necessary to go beyond 28 days we should be prepared to do so," Brown said.
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