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Al-Qaida Gold Trade, U.N. Says

UNITED NATIONS, Oct. 31- Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network is adapting to U.N. sanctions by converting money into gold and precious stones, the BBC reported Friday.

Heraldo Munoz, the Chilean ambassador to the U.N. and chairman of the U.N. sanctions committee against al-Qaida and the Taliban, just returned from a fact-finding mission to Afghanistan, the United Arab Emirates, Indonesia and Singapore.

He told reporters Friday terrorist groups were avoiding bank transfers that could be traced and were either no longer using front companies or getting better at hiding them.

"The interesting thing is that these funds have not been transferred through banks ... again underlining that al-Qaida or the al-Qaida network has adapted to our sanctions."

This included using what is known as the hawala system -- transferring money by couriers and through informal banking structures rather than commercial banks.

"They are being creative about this," and are becoming "more dangerous", he said.

Ambassador Munoz and his colleagues also "feel that Afghanistan is at a critical juncture in terms of advancing towards normalcy and stability and facing enormous challenges and threats."

"First and foremost," he said, was "terrorism on the part of the al-Qaida remnants, particularly in the south of the country." Another problem was "factionalism, particularly in the north on the part of warlords who want to keep their small parcels of power, land and their small private armies, and obviously do not necessarily like the idea of a central state."

Munoz also said the Taliban was charging drug traffickers to pass through the areas they control and then using the proceeds to buy weapons.

"There is indeed a growing alliance a between the Taliban and drug traffickers," he said. "The Taliban are getting funding by letting through the drug traffickers and are also purchasing arms in exchange for drugs.

Source: United Press International

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