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Farrakhan Seeks Approval For Large Libyan Donation

By Michael A. Fletcher
The Washington Post

Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan has asked the Treasury Department for permission to accept a $1 billion donation from Libya, a gift he says should be allowed because it will be used to rebuild the black community's tattered economic fabric.

Farrakhan formally applied last week to the department's Office of Foreign Assets Control, seeking its approval for him to accept donations from Libya, one of several countries under sanctions limiting travel and business transactions by U.S. citizens.

The donation from Libya could be the first of several offered to Farrakhan from nations "friendly and not-so-friendly" to the United States, said the Rev. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., an ally of the Nation of Islam leader.

Countries that fall under U.S. sanctions include Libya, Sudan, Iran and Iraq, all of which were visited by Farrakhan during a controversial world tour he made just months after leading last October's Million Man March in Washington. During Farrakhan's tour, it was reported that Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi had pledged $1 billion to Farrakhan to use toward mobilizing blacks and other "oppressed" minorities in the United States.

Since then, Farrakhan has been working to find a legal way to accept that money, said Chavis, head of the National African- American Leadership Summit.

"As a result of the Million Man March, which was seen all over the world, people have been inspired and wanted to know if contributions could be made to promote the economic empowerment of our communities," Chavis said. "So over the past 10 months, we have been working to establish legal procedures to achieve those objectives."

Chavis said that during a recent trip, which included stops in China and Egypt, he met with individuals interested in making large contributions to build on the economic and political empowerment goals talked about during the march.

Chavis described Marion Harris, the North Carolina businessman named as Farrakhan's agent on the Treasury Department application, as a lifelong friend and board member of NAALS, the organization Chavis launched in conjunction with the Million Man March.

"NAALS works in direct cooperation with the Nation of Islam, and whatever is being done needs to be seen in the context of the Million Man March," Chavis said.

Word of Farrakhan's application already has provoked a heated response from Rep. Peter T. King, a New York Republican who successfully pressed for congressional hearings following Farrakhan's tour.

In letters to several Cabinet officials, including Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin, King said "the federal government must do all in its power to discourage this evil alliance between America's most vicious hatemonger and the Middle East's most bloodthirsty terrorist dictator."

Treasury officials would not comment directly on Farrakhan's application. But rules against doing business with Libya and other outlaw states are aimed at preventing economic benefits from flowing to so-called terrorist nations, which would not necessarily prevent the gift from being approved.

While King and others denounce Gadhafi as a terrorist, Farrakhan describes the Libyan leader as a friend who has been smeared by the U.S. government.

In a speech before the National Association of Black Journalists last week, Farrakhan said he was planning to travel to Libya again this week, where he is to be honored with a $250,000 humanitarian award from Gadhafi. Past winners of the award include South African President Nelson Mandela.

Last week, Farrakhan also said a donation from Libya should be allowed because the Nation of Islam is not "un-American" and the donation would go toward humanitarian purposes.

Farrakhan has been the recipient of aid from Gadhafi in the past. During the mid-1980s, the Libyan leader made a $5 million loan to the Nation of Islam to launch a line of personal care products that now is sold mostly by Nation of Islam vendors.

If Farrakhan is successful in collecting on the pledges from Gadhafi and others, the money is likely to be deposited in black and Hispanic run banks and invested with minority-run brokerage firms and in minority businesses, Chavis said.

"We salute the efforts of the Nation of Islam to attract charitable contributions to aid the spiritual and economic development of our communities," Chavis said.