Jordan reverses decision to freeze Hamas assets

Thursday, September 18, 2003

AMMAN Jordan, alarmed by a harsh response from the Islamic opposition, has rescinded a decision to freeze assets of Hamas.

Jordanian officials said the measure announced on Monday was never approved by the government in Amman. As a result, they said, the freeze has been lifted and would be reviewed over the next few weeks.

Jordanian Information Minister Nabil Sharif said a decision to freeze the accounts in the kingdom of Hamas leaders based in Beirut, Damascus and Gaza City was not political. Instead, Sharif was quoted by the official Petra news agency as saying that the decision was "for banking purposes only,", Middle East Newsline reported

Later on Tuesday, the Jordanian Central Bank said it had rescinded its decision to freeze Hamas assets in the kingdom. The bank, in a statement reported by Petra, did not elaborate.

The Jordanian reversal came after a majority of parliament as well as Islamic groups protested the decision to freeze Hamas assets. In a statement, Hamas said Jordan has decided to freeze the bank accounts of its leading members as well as five charities linked to the Islamic insurgency group.

"Jordan has become the first Arab and Muslim country to take such a step that has no justification other than implementing American dictates," the Hamas statement said.

In another development, Jordan has uncovered an Al Qaida-related insurgency cell that planned attacks throughout the kingdom. Jordanian officials said the cell was composed of 15 members included Al Qaida and its satellite group, Ansar Al Islam. The officials said most of the members infiltrated from Iran, where they were organized by a leading Al Qaida operative.

The Islamic cell targeted Israeli, Jordanian and U.S. interests, the officials said. They said 13 members of the cell were Jordanian nationals and the remaining two were Iraqis.

Jordanian officials were tipped off by the cell when U.S. military forces captured an insurgent in March. The cell was believed to have been organized by Abu Mussib Al Zarqawi and was headed by Mulla Kreker, head of Ansar. Al Zarqawi was charged with ordering the assassination of U.S. diplomat Lawrence Foley in October 2002. Al Zarqawi was said to have fled from Iraq to neighboring Iran in March.

The officials said only one member of the cell was captured in northern Iraq. They identified the insurgent as Mahmoud Rabati, 34, who was believed to have later identified the other members of the cell. Rabati was transferred to Jordan at the end of April.

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