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Kenya Muslim group accuses Britain in aid row

Written by: Staff

NAIROBI, March 5 (Reuters) The head of Kenya's main Muslim association accused Britain today of breaking a contract to fund charity work because of false suspicions it is linked to militant groups like al Qaeda.

But the British High Commission dismissed the allegations, saying funding was withdrawn from the association's project because of doubts over financial management.

Nazlin Rajput, an opposition politician and chairwoman of the National Muslim Council of Kenya (NMCK), said the east African nation's former colonial ruler had reneged on a 165,000 pounds (289,000 dollars) deal for a charity offering legal aid to the poor.

The group had been earmarked for a grant under the British foreign office's Global Opportunities Fund (GOF), an aid package for strategically important regions of the Muslim world.

Rajput said the High Commission then withheld the grant because it suspected the council of links to terrorist groups.

''(Though) we had given them everything, they still felt we had a hidden agenda, that we were not disclosing the true source of some core funding,'' she told a news conference.

Rajput added that she feared the council would be blamed for the activities of terrorists in east Africa.

''Kenya has been victim to two terror attacks... What guarantee do we have that (Britain) will not be hit by someone and will not blame me?'' The British High Commission said Rajput's allegations were unfounded. ''We were not satisfied with the financial management of this NGO,'' GOF project manager Clare Ludlow told Reuters.

''They were given ample opportunity to address our concerns.'' Although Kenya is a mainly Christian country, there is also a sizeable Muslim minority -- estimates vary from 7 per cent to 15 percent -- among the 32 million population.

Rajput accused British diplomats of racism and a deliberate attempt to sabotage the Muslim council by creating rifts.

Withholding funds had led the council to be thrown out of its offices and some employees thrown out of their homes for non-payment of rent, she added. ''We are being targeted by the British for being vocal in defending our faith,'' she said.

Although Ludlow did not specify the British allegations of mismanagement, a letter to Rajput dated Jan. 26 and seen by Reuters today gave more details.

''There remain discrepancies between receipts submitted, the financial report (request for funding) and the final budget agreed,'' High Commission spokesman Mark Norton wrote in the letter.

''NMCK will not be entitled to any disbursement until you are able to satisfy the discrepancies.'' Reuters CH DB2052

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