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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

APEC Vows War on Terror Funds

LOS CABOS, Mexico -- Finance ministers from around the world unveiled a plan Friday to cut off funds to extremists, pledging to boost efforts to investigate money launderers and the financing of terror.

The ministers of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum also said a global economic recovery was under way, but acknowledged that doubts about the strength and speed of the recovery remained.

"It is the view of the finance ministers that we should pursue and continue the prosecution of the financial war on terrorism," U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill told a news conference after a joint ministerial statement was released in this plush seaside resort.

The drive to crack down on terror financing is directly aimed at al-Qaida, the organization of Saudi-born militant Osama bin Laden that Washington blames for the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States that killed about 3,000 people. The United States has moved to cut al-Qaida's funding sources.

Finance ministers, who were joined Friday by Mexican President Vicente Fox, hammered out the plan in a second day behind closed doors and under heavy guard.

The ministers did not disclose many details of the plan but said it included clamping down on the hawala money-exchange system used widely in the Middle East and elsewhere for transferring funds in a hard-to-trace way. The proposals will be ready for political leaders, including U.S. President George W. Bush, to endorse at a summit in Los Cabos late next month.

"We have agreed to put forward to the leaders who meet here next month a second-phase agenda which will include going after hawalas and other money-change sectors," O'Neill said.

O'Neill said as many as 9,500 people had been arrested globally since last September on suspicion of activities supporting terror, and he hinted more were coming.

After the Sept. 11 attacks, the United States and other nations froze more than $112 million in assets that Washington said were tied to funding terrorism worldwide. But in the past eight months, only $10 million in additional funds had been blocked, according to a UN report critical of the effort. Some of the money has been linked to charitable and nongovernmental organizations.

"We note the importance of preventing terrorists from misusing alternative remittance systems and nonprofit organizations, including charities, as a source of or mechanism to move funds," the joint ministerial statement said.

The two-day finance ministers' meeting was dominated by the discussion about curbing terror finances, but concerns about the global economic expansion also came up.

"We recognize that the majority of the indicators suggest that the global economic recovery is under way," the statement said. "Nevertheless, uncertainties regarding the strength and pace of the expansion remain."