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Somali leaders urge US govt to end assets freeze of Somali bank


Nov 11 (AFP) - The Somali transitional government and faction leaders attending a peace conference here on Monday urged the international community to end a freeze on Somali assets, blocked after last year's terrorist attacks in the United States. "We appeal to the governments of the US, Britain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to defreeze assets of Al-Barakaat Bank in their countries to enable us to curb widespread insecurity and worsening economic conditions in Somalia," faction leader Hassan Ali Atto told AFP.

Al-Barakaat's assets were frozen worldwide last November, following last year's September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States, blamed on the Saudi billionaire Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network. In August, US Treasury Under Secretary Jimmy Gurule de-listed Barakaat Enterprise USA and asked the UN Security Council to remove this name and five others from its list of individuals and entities suspected of financing terrorism, after it was proved that they had no links with terrorist activities.

"The de-freezing has only affected Barakaat USA and we are appealing again to the US government to assist in the delisting of all other Somali companies and invididuals from any international list against terrorism if there is no credible legal impediment," Atto said.

"We are particularly appealing to the UAE government to do the same, as 90 percent of Barakaat's assets are in the UAE," said the statement, issued jointly by the Somali Transitional National Government (TNG) and main warlords at peace talks in Eldoret on Monday. "The freezing of Barakaat's assets worldwide led to increased insecurity and collapse of economic activities in Somalia as thousands employed by the bank had to stop work, while those that received money from relatives and friends abroad can no longer survive," another faction leader Musa Sudi Yalahow said.

Somalia has been ungovernable since the overthrow of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in January 1991, and the country's economy has largely collapsed.

Among the signatories were TNG Prime Minister Hasan Abshir Farah and parliament Speaker Abdallah Derrow Issak, principal warlords Yalahow, Atto, Hussein Mohamed Aidid, Hassan Mohamed Nur Shatigudud, Mohamed Siad Hirsi Morgan, and more than a dozen other main faction and women's leaders.

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