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Saudis and Aussies: Exchange Over Mosques and Information Deficits January 11, 2007

Posted by publicpolitics in Diplomacy, Middle East.
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The embassy said yesterday it had been “shocked” by Mr Downer’s Monday statement on ABC radio that investigators were probing possible funding from “extremist groups in Saudi Arabia” for Australian mosques.

Mark Dodd and Pia Ackerman

The government of Australia and the Saudi Arabian embassy have had a bit of tempest in a teacup over a statement by Aussie Foreign Minister ALexander Downer’s allegation that funds from Islamic extremists based in the Kingdom have been used in Australia to fund mosques. Mr. Downer said that the Department of Foreign Affairs had made its view known about an application by the Saudi government to invest in the development of a Mosque in Park Holme, a suburb of Adelaide. Although the Saudis denied having knowledge of the content of Downer’s statement, the Austarlian governments says that has a result of the Department’s statement, the Saudis blocked funding for the Mosque.

The whole affair revolves around the case of an Iraqi who was a member of the Park Holme Mosque before his capture last month in Baghdad for alleged anti-coalition activities.

The Saudi embassy claims that money is not coming from Saudi Arabia to support any extremist groups and that the Saudis are watching what money goes out of the country very closely.

The most interesting part of the whole story is what was not revealed. When pushed to reveal how much Saudi assistance goes to organizations in Australia, the Saudis referred reporters to the Australian government, which said it could provide no details. It would seem prudent that all governments should have some way of tracking money coming in from other countries, but perhaps this is not legally possible for funds coming from non governmental organizations. In the Australian situation, the funds in question are directly from the Saudi government, and these direct government funds would be, one might hope, less difficult to track.

Tags: extremist-mosque | statement | shocks | probing | Mosque | link | investigating | Groups | Funding | extremist | Saudi Arabia | Saudi | Politics | Monday | embassy | Downer | AUSTRALIAN | Australia | Adelaide

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