'Venezuelan diplomat helped Hizbullah'

US freezes assets of embassy official and others accused of providing financial support to terror group.

Ahmadinejad Chavez 224.  (photo credit: AP)
Ahmadinejad Chavez 224.
(photo credit: AP)
The Bush administration took action Wednesday against a Venezuelan official and others accused of providing financial support to the Hizbullah terror group. The Treasury Department's action covers Ghazi Nasr al Din, whom the United States identified as a Venezuelan diplomat. The order also targets Fawzi Kan'an and two Venezuelan-based travel agencies - Biblos and Hilal - that he allegedly owns or controls. Kan'an denied the Treasury Department's accusations. "That's pure lies," he told The Associated Press. "What do I have to do with Hizbullah? I don't know the group; don't know anyone." Any financial assets found in the United States belonging to those designated Wednesday must be frozen. Americans are forbidden from doing business with them. "It is extremely troubling to see the government of Venezuela employing and providing safe harbor to Hizbullah facilitators and fundraisers," said Adam Szubin, director of Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control. The US government alleges that Nasr al Din used his position as a diplomat and president of a Caracas-based Shi' a Islamic Center to give financial assistance to Hizbullah. There were conflicting reports from the United States and Venezuela over whether he was stationed in Lebanon or Syria. Nasr al Din is suspected of counseling Hizbullah donors on fundraising efforts and providing donors with specific bank account information where "donors deposits would go directly to Hizbullah," the department said. He also allegedly arranged the travel of Hizbullah members to Iran. The department described Kan'an as a "significant provider" of financial support to Hizbullah. He also has traveled with other Hizbullah members to Iran, the department said. The government also alleged that he used his Biblos travel agency to "courier funds" to Lebanon. Kan'an was reached by phone at a number listed for his travel agency Biblos. He said that both Biblos and Hilal, his travel agencies, were in the process of being closed, "and I don't work anymore." Asked if he knows of any accounts that have been frozen, Kan'an said: "I have accounts, and they aren't frozen." He said he does have accounts in the United States. In a separate action, Treasury moved to block the assets of alleged leaders of al-Qaida linked terrorist group Islamic Jihad Union, described by the US as having a goal of overthrowing the Uzbekistan government. The two alleged leaders named are: Najmiddin Kamolitdinovich Jalolov and Suhayl Fatilloevich Buranov.