Farrakhan Denied Permission to Take $1 Billion Libyan Donation
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The federal government denied Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan permission Wednesday to accept a promised $1 billion gift from Libya to help American blacks economically and politically.
Accused of supporting global terrorism, Libya for years has been under U.S. sanctions that bar most financial transactions between the two countries and limit travel.
Farrakhan had applied last week to the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, asking that he be granted an exemption from the sanctions to permit acceptance of the $1 billion pledged by Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi during a visit Farrakhan made to Libya in January.
Late Wednesday, the Treasury Department denied that request in a message to Farrakhan’s lawyers in Chicago, asserting the continuing need of the United States to enforce its policy of isolating Libya.
The government denial came just a day after Farrakhan said if the exemptions were not approved, ``I will go across the nation stirring up not only my people, but all those who would benefit from it.″
Farrakhan already was en route to Libya to receive a $250,000 humanitarian award from Gadhafi on Saturday. That gift, too, was barred by the government decision.
In his denial letter, OFAC Director R. Richard Newcomb said the United States ``is convinced that the government of Libya remains a strong supporter of terrorist groups″ and that it would be ``inconsistent with current U.S. foreign policy″ to allow the donations to be made.
Government officials said they had serious doubts whether Gadhafi could come up with the promised money anyway.
A woman who answered the phone Wednesday at Nation of Islam headquarters in Chicago said, ``The minister has not made a statement″ on the government’s decision. The woman, who would not give her name, said the group’s usual spokesman, James Muhammad, was gone from his office for the day and not available elsewhere.
At a news conference in Chicago before his departure, Farrakhan said the U.S. government has left poor Americans ``in the lurch″ with a new welfare law and said he wanted to use the Libyan gift to help blacks and the poor.
``We are not terrorists,″ Farrakhan said. ``We are not trying to do anything against the good of America. What we want to do is good for our people and ultimately the good for our nation.″
He said if permission was denied, he would also take legal action to force the government to reverse itself, arguing the request is a matter of religious freedom. ``We will fight in every way possible,″ he said.
In its application for an exemption, the Nation of Islam said the Libyan money would support a national fund that would form joint ventures with businesses and financial institutions to help blacks.
At the State Department, spokesman Glyn Davies said before Wednesday’s announcement that ``obviously Gadhafi has an interest ... in gaining a foothold here in the United States in some fashion. ... And of course, that kind of talk is not something that we view positively at all.″
During their meeting earlier this year, Farrakhan and Gadhafi discussed how to increase the influence of U.S. minorities in this election year and agreed to work together to mobilize ``oppressed minorities to play a significant role in American political life,″ according to a report at the time by Libya’s official news agency.
Gadhafi said then that after years of confronting the United States from outside, the plan would provide ``a loophole to enter the fortress and to confront it from within.″
Farrakhan, a controversial figure because of past statements viewed as racist, drew renewed criticism this week after he applied for permission to accept the Libyan gifts.
Relatives of the victims of the 1988 Pan Am 103 bombing _ in which two Libyan agents are prime suspects _ voiced outrage and called on the White House to reject the request. They said the money was a thinly veiled propaganda ploy by Libya.
And on Wednesday, Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., called on Secretary of State Warren Christopher to revoke Farrakhan’s passport because of his travel to terrorist countries and meetings with outlaw leaders.
Gadhafi has been laboring for years to soften his status as a world pariah through back-channel contacts with the United States.