Britain pushes U.N. resolution against ransom payments to extremists

UNITED NATIONS Tue Dec 3, 2013 9:28pm GMT

British Ambassador to the United Nations Mark Lyall Grant arrives for a meeting of the five permanent members of U.N. Security Council in New York, August 30, 2013. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

British Ambassador to the United Nations Mark Lyall Grant arrives for a meeting of the five permanent members of U.N. Security Council in New York, August 30, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Carlo Allegri

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UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Britain submitted a draft resolution to the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday that calls on countries to prevent the payment of kidnap ransoms to extremist groups, like al Qaeda, which have earned hundreds of millions of dollars from such crimes.

British U.N. Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said he hoped the 15-member council would be able to adopt the resolution by the end of the month. No new legal obligations would be created, he said, as states were already required not to pay kidnap ransoms under an anti-terrorism resolution adopted in 2001.

"There is increasing concern about the amount of money that is being raised by terrorists through kidnap for ransom and it has been particularly a tool of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and also al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula," Lyall Grant said.

"We want this resolution ... to show that the international community should not be paying ransoms for kidnap that can be used for terrorist purposes," he told Reuters.

The United States has estimated militant groups have received $120 million over the past decade, including ransoms paid to al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

The U.S. government does not pay ransoms, but some European governments do.

French President Francois Hollande has said Paris ended a policy of paying ransoms for hostages, but suspicion that it still does so, despite official denials, has been a source of tension with the United States.

This year France brushed off an allegation by a former U.S. diplomat that it paid a $17 million ransom in vain for the release of three hostages abducted in 2010 from Niger.

While a confidential Nigerian government report seen by Reuters showed that Nigerian Islamist sect Boko Haram was paid an equivalent of around $3.15 million by French and Cameroonian negotiators before freeing seven French hostages in April.

The British draft Security Council resolution will echo a commitment made the Group of Eight powerful nations - the United States, Russia, Britain, Canada, Germany, France, Italy and Japan - in a communique in June.

"We unequivocally reject the payment of ransoms to terrorists and we call on countries and companies around the world to follow our lead and stamp out this lucrative income for terrorists," the G8 communique said.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; editing by Christopher Wilson)

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