Washington: A new, confidential international report, backed by the US government, gives the broadest endorsement to date of efforts by Saudi Arabia to combat terrorist financing, US officials said on Friday.
The "mutual evaluation" report adopted by the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force is a victory for the Saudis, accused by the United States in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks of failing to do enough to stop terrorist financial flows.
"The FATF mutual evaluation was very successful. The Saudis put their best foot forward... They are proud of it and they should be proud of their efforts," a US counterterrorism official told Reuters.
A senior administration official who has seen the FATF report said the US government backed its findings.
The report is confidential, but a summary is due to be published in early July, after the next FATF plenary.
"They have put a lot of efforts into setting up an anti-money laundering/counter-terrorist financing regime that meets international standards. They don't have a perfect regime. Nobody has a perfect regime, and the report reflects where they could work a little bit harder," the counterterrorism official said.
The official praised the Saudi enactment of new laws on money laundering, the insurance sector and capital markets in 2003, in addition to new regulations on charities, which authorities say have been used to funnel funds to militants.
The official said Saudi Arabia was also in the process of setting up a financial intelligence unit to improve tracking of dirty cash, and said new executive rules to their anti-money laundering legislation issued in February were another important step.
Both officials told Reuters that more work needed to be done, such as ratifying the UN convention on terrorist financing and ensuring the new regulations were implemented and enforced across the state's financial sector.
"They have a little bit of work left to do, but I think they are on the right track and we are very happy with the progress they have made," the counterterrorism official said.
"We now enjoy far greater cooperation in combating terrorism both in an operational sense and in terror finance," the senior administration official said.
"Does it mean they have done everything that we want them to do? The answer is no. But it is a growing, strengthening relationship, and we continue to work with them every day to try to improve it," that official added.