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Kuwait minister in Syria funding row quits

Kuwait, May 12, 2014

Kuwait's justice and Islamic affairs minister has resigned, the local news service Al-Rai said on Monday, after a senior US official said he had called for jihad in Syria and promoted the funding of terrorism.

Last month Nayef Al-Ajmi rejected the comments made in March by US Treasury Undersecretary David Cohen as "groundless and baseless", and was backed by the cabinet.

But on Monday, Al-Ajmi said the ruler had accepted his resignation, Al-Rai said. Kuwaiti media reported last month that he had already offered to resign once, citing health reasons.

"I thank His Highness the Emir for accepting my resignation and for understanding my reasons," Al-Ajmi said according to an SMS alert from Al-Rai, which gave no further details.

Attempts to reach Al-Ajmi were unsuccessful. He has given statements to the private news group on the topic before.

Cohen said that Al-Ajmi had "a history of promoting jihad in Syria" and that his image had featured on fundraising posters for a financier of a Syrian rebel group linked to Al Qaeda - the Nusra Front.

Kuwait has been one of the biggest humanitarian donors to Syria and Syrian refugees through the United Nations, but it has also struggled to control unofficial fundraising for opposition groups in Syria by private individuals.

Unlike some other Gulf states, Kuwait is against arming rebels fighting to topple Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. But it has tolerated fundraising in private houses, mosques and on social media.

In particular, some Kuwaiti and US officials fear that campaigns that give militant Islamist groups funds to buy arms will not only fuel the violence in Syria but also stir sectarian tensions in Kuwait.

Like other Western countries, the US considers that Assad has lost legitimacy for his violent repression of what began as a peaceful protest movement, but does not want to see him replaced by the more hardline Islamist groups that have gained ascendancy among Syria's armed rebels.

In another sign that Kuwait was reacting to concerns about Syria financing, a Kuwaiti official said a recent fundraising campaign backed by local clerics and politicians was illegal.

Munira al-Fadhli, an assistant undersecretary in the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour, was quoted by Monday's English language daily Kuwait Times as saying that "our department does not authorise or license individuals to collect donations. Licences are only given to official charities".

Fadhli said the recent "Syria Calls" campaign violated the law and legal action will be taken against its organisers. - Reuters




Tags: Kuwait | minister |

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