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China parliament to target financing of terrorism

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BEIJING, Feb 26 (Reuters) China, facing what it says is terror threat in its restive far northwest, has sent a UN convention that tackles the financing of terrorism to parliament for approval, Xinhua news agency said.

China has supported the US-led war on terror, but human rights activists accuse it of using the campaign to legitimise a crackdown on Uighur activists in its remote northwest.

''The core of the convention is about undermining the terrorist organisation's economic support through stemming its fund sources,'' Xinhua quoted Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei as saying yesterday.

''The approval of the convention is conducive to stemming funds supplied by overseas anti-Chinese forces to China's domestic terrorists, and helping safeguard national security and social stability.'' Muslim Uighur militants have been struggling for decades for self-determination in Xinjiang, an autonomous region established 50 years ago.

Ethnic separatists, religious extremists and terrorists had been ''running wild for some time'' in neighbouring regions, two general warned last month, singling out Xinjiang, self-ruled Taiwan, which China claims as its own, and the Himalayan region of Tibet.

Wu said parliamentary approval would ''showcase the country as a responsible country in the international society''. The government signed the convention as far back as November 13, 2001, two months after the September 11 attacks on the United States.

Turkic-speaking Uighurs make up the majority of the 19 million people in Xinjiang, which borders former Soviet Central Asian republics, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

China is especially keen to maintain stability in the region as it contains 30 per cent of the country's oil reserves.

The International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism, which gives signatory countries the power to charge people suspected of financing terrorism and sets rules for repatriation, was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1999.

China's annual session of parliament opens on March 5.

REUTERS PR BS0939

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