KUWAIT (Reuters) - Kuwait’s justice and Islamic affairs minister has rejected remarks from a senior U.S. official that he called for jihad in Syria and promoted the funding of terrorism, state news agency KUNA said, citing a cabinet statement released late on Monday.
Nayef al-Ajmi was quoted in the statement as saying that comments made by U.S. Treasury Undersecretary David Cohen in March, reported in U.S. media, were “baseless and groundless”.
Unlike Gulf Arab states Saudi Arabia and Qatar, Kuwaiti government policy is against arming rebels fighting to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and has led a humanitarian fundraising campaign for Syria through the United Nations.
However, the U.S.-allied country allows fundraising in private houses as well as on social media, which it says is hard to control. Some of the fundraising campaigns have been for aid for Syrian refugees but others openly call for funds to buy weapons for opposition fighters.
Some Kuwaitis have gone to fight in the years-long conflict which has drawn in Islamist combatants from across the Middle East and from Europe and Asia and stoked sectarian tensions.
Cohen said that Ajmi had “a history of promoting jihad in Syria” and that his image had been featured on fundraising posters for a financier of the al Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front.
Ajmi’s ministry said it would allow non-profit organizations and charities to collect donations for Syrians at Kuwaiti mosques, Cohen said, describing this as “a measure we believe can be easily exploited by Kuwait-based terrorist fundraisers”.
The Kuwaiti cabinet statement said the government “reiterated Kuwait’s firm rejection to all forms of terrorism regardless of its justifications”, noting that Kuwait would cooperate on fighting against terrorism.
“Al-Ajmi affirmed that all his activities and efforts are part of Kuwait’s well-recognized official and unofficial efforts in charitable, religious and humanitarian realms,” it said.
Reporting by Sylvia Westall; Editing by Sami Aboudi and Louise Ireland