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Bahrain Bank Campaigns To get Assets Unfrozen In U.S.

January 3, 1994

MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) _ A Bahraini bank whose assets in the United States were frozen because of its connections with Libya is seeking to convince U.S. Treasury officials to halt the freeze, a senior executive said today.

Dr. Medhat Sadek, general manager of Arab Financial Services, the largest issuer of the Visa credit card in the Middle East, said he has not received a reply to his request for face-to-face meetings in Washington.

AFS had to halt all credit card and traveler check transactions after Washington froze the bank’s dollar assets Dec. 20. The U.S. administration alleged that 60 percent of AFS shares were ″owned by Libyan-controlled or influenced institutions.″

The U.S. Treasury’s list of ″specially designated″ Libyans, those with whom Americans are forbidden to deal, included the names of three men listed in AFS’ 1992 annual report as board members. But AFS officials say two have long since quit and the third was recently replaced.

The United Nations imposed sanctions against Libya after it refused to hand over two suspects in the December 1988 bombing of the Pan Am jetliner over Lockerbie, Scotland.

At a memorial service for the bombing victims, President Clinton last month vowed to press for tougher sanctions to punish Libya for its alleged role in the disaster that killed 270 people.

The U.S. action against AFS, which followed Clinton’s pledge, has been sharply criticized in the Bahraini media. Sadek has dismissed suggestions that AFS sue the U.S. Treasury.

″There is no thought of suing anyone. What we want is to give people their money and then to restore credibility. The damage done to our credibility is beyond assessment,″ he said.

AFS and the Bahrain authorities have said the U.S. action was unjustified because Libyan involvement in AFS, which deals in 33 countries, is only 11.26 percent.

Asked how much holdings were in U.S. dollars that have been frozen, Sadek replied: ″Less than 50 percent.″

AFS annual report for 1992 listed the company with North American assets totalling $79.43 million.

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