UNITED NATIONS -- The U.N. Security Council on Friday relaxed a freeze on the assets of more than 200 people suspected of having links to terrorism so they can pay for basic needs like rent, medicine and in some cases, legal expenses.
The individuals had complained that they were left facing poverty by the U.N. resolution adopted in January, which orders countries to freeze the funds and other assets of individuals and groups suspected of links to Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida terrorist network.
The new resolution approved unanimously by the 15-member Security Council allows the country in which the individuals live to determine the amount of money that can be released.
Expenses that can be exempted include food, housing, health care, taxes, insurance premiums and utility bills, the resolution said.
It also allows the release of funds to pay for legal charges connected to the maintenance of the frozen funds, and "extraordinary expenses," which would have to be approved by the U.N. committee overseeing the sanctions.
A U.S. official said extraordinary expenses could cover a broad range of unexpected needs, including the death of a relative or the desire to fly in a legal team to aid in the suspect's defense.
"There was great concern that we had to work on a humanitarian exemptions resolution so that people who have had their assets frozen at least have some sort of access to funds for their daily lives," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
$115 million frozen
Suspicious funds worth $115 million have been frozen since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, with two-thirds of that from countries outside the United States, the U.S. official said.
The resolution also added that any interest earned on frozen assets and any payments under contracts or other agreements to individuals whose assets have been frozen, also will be frozen.
According to the United Nations, the sanctions list currently has 324 names, including 232 individuals and 92 groups.
The individuals on the list come from a range of countries including Afghanistan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Somalia, Italy, the United States, Britain, Yemen, Libya, Tunisia, Germany, Kenya, Tanzania, Jordan, Uzbekistan and Switzerland.
It ordered all nations to impose a travel ban and an arms embargo and freeze the assets of individuals and groups on a list compiled by a council committee monitoring the sanctions.