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U.N. Security Council puts sanctions focus on Islamic State

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Council warned on Thursday that some countries are failing to implement long-standing sanctions against Islamic State, as an unprecedented meeting of finance ministers put the global focus on cutting off the militant group’s funds.

U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew (center right) chairs a meeting of the United Nations Security Council where Finance ministers of United Nations Security Council's member countries voted to approve a resolution to cut funding for Islamic State at U.N. headquarters in New York, December 17, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Segar

The 15-member council unanimously adopted a U.S. and Russian-drafted resolution that ties together existing measures targeting Islamic State’s finances and offers guidance on implementation in a bid to push more countries to act.

It builds on a Security Council action in February that banned trade in antiquities from Syria, threatened sanctions on anyone buying oil from Islamic State and al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front militants and urged states to stop kidnap ransom payments.

“This resolution is a critical step, but the real test will be determined by actions we each take after adoption,” U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew told the council after the vote. “We need meaningful implementation, coordination and enforcement from each country represented here, and many others.”

The resolution “expresses concern about the lack of implementation” of previous resolutions targeting al Qaeda and Islamic State, including an “insufficient level of reporting” by states on measures they have taken to implement U.N. sanctions.

The council renamed its al Qaeda sanctions regime the “ISIL (Daesh) and al Qaeda Sanctions Committee” - Islamic State is also known as ISIL and Daesh - and called on states to report within 120 days on their implementation of sanctions.

“Unfortunately the obligations ... are not being implemented by all and everywhere,” Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told the council, adding that “special responsibility for suppressing the channels for financing of ISIL unavoidably rests with states neighboring on Iraq and Syria.”

Islamic State, which was blacklisted by the Security Council sanctions committee as an offshoot of al Qaeda in Iraq in May 2013, has seized swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria where it has proclaimed a caliphate.

The council also specifically asked states to report on “interdictions in their territory of any oil, oil products, modular refineries, and related material being transferred to or from (Islamic State or Nusra Front).”

Lew, chair of Thursday’s meeting because the United States is the council president for December, said Islamic State had reaped an estimated $500 million from black-market oil sales and “millions more from the people it brutalizes and extorts.”

Russia’s Churkin said Islamic State also made $250 million a year from the sale of phosphates, $200 million from barley and rye and $100 million from cement. He said Islamic State leaders allocated $30 million a month to buy weapons and ammunition, using shell companies in Eastern Europe.

The adoption of the U.N. resolution was the result of a planned 18-month review of the al Qaeda sanctions regime.

There are currently 243 individuals and 74 entities on the ISIL and al Qaeda sanctions list. They are subject to an arms embargo and a global asset freeze and travel ban.

French Finance Minister Michel Sapin said the new council resolution would “not be a deterrent if it does not lead to the U.N. Security Council adding names to the list.”

The resolution makes clear that states are required to stop their citizens from funding or providing services to “terrorist organizations or individual terrorists for any purpose, including but not limited to recruitment, training, or travel, even in the absence of a link to a specific terrorist act.”

United Nations experts have said about 22,000 foreign fighters from some 100 countries are linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

Editing by Tom Brown and Leslie Adler