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US orders freeze of `terrorist' assets

Washington - President Bill Clinton yesterday ordered a freeze on the US assets of 12 Middle Eastern groups and 18 individuals allegedly involved in terrorism, a foretaste of new anti-terrorist measures the White House is to send to Capitol Hill, writes Rupert Cornwell.

The moves, carried out under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, comes two days after Palestinian suicide bombers killed 19 people at Beit Lid in central Israel. It is aimed at "terrorist organisations that threaten to disrupt the (Middle Eastern) peace process," White House spokesman Mike McCurry said.

Mr McCurry named nine of the 12 groups, as Hamas, Hizbollah, Islamic Jihad, Abu Nidal, Black September, Fatah Revolutionary Council, the Islamic Group, the Palestine Liberation Front, and the extremist Jewish organization Kach. The order is intended to halt charity fund-aising by these groups, and deny them access to the US financial system. The FBI has long believed that funds raised in the US for "charitable" and humanitarian purposes in fact go to buy weapons. Similar charges have been levelled at Sinn Fein,whose leaders are granted US visas on condition they do not engage in fund-raising.