Ministers discuss ways to fight terror, revive economies

CABO SAN LUCAS, Mexico -- With the global economy still sluggish a year after the Sept. 11 attacks, finance leaders are looking for ways to jump-start economic growth while expanding their fight to halt the flow of money used for terrorism.

In closed meetings Friday at this Pacific coast resort, finance ministers from the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum considered whether to adopt a U.S.-proposed action plan to fight terrorism financing.

The plan, proposed by Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, would expand on actions already taken by countries around the globe to stop terrorism funding. It calls for improving oversight of charities to ensure they are not abused by terrorists, implementing already agreed upon international financial standards, and making sure that freeze orders against terrorists' assets are effective.

"The openness of our modern financial system, which allows savers and investors to fuel economic growth in every nation, also creates opportunities for terrorists to hide in the shadows," O'Neill told ministers during their two-day meeting at a seaside hotel.

During last year's APEC summit in China -- a month after Sept. 11 -- finance ministers agreed to combat financial crimes by accelerating the fight against money laundering and other forms of terrorist funding.

Friday's meeting was in preparation for an APEC leaders' summit scheduled to be held here in October.