U.S. Treasury to discuss funding for Iraq militant group

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew will discuss counterterrorism financing during his visit to the Middle East, including the funding network of the group fomenting an insurgency in Iraq, Treasury officials said on Friday.

President Barack Obama on Friday said the United States was weighing how to help Iraq counter militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, which has launched a rebellion against Iraq's government.

Lew will meet with officials in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Germany next week, where he will also discuss issues of tax evasion and economic growth.

“The recent events in the Middle East do nothing but underscore the importance (of terrorist financing), and so certainly that will be a prime issue that the secretary will be discussing, our joint efforts to undermine any financial networks that support terrorist groups,” a senior Treasury official told reporters ahead of Lew's trip.

Treasury has already sanctioned leaders of ISIL, which was formerly called Al Qaeda in Iraq, and has said it was closely tracking the funding stream of the group. Treasury officials said Saudi Arabia and the UAE see “eye to eye” with the United States on the importance of stopping ISIL's activities.

In Abu Dhabi, Lew will also emphasize the need to keep pressure on Iran while discussions over its nuclear program continue, said the Treasury officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The United States and other world powers are currently in negotiations with Iran on limiting Tehran's controversial nuclear program in exchange for an end to sanctions. The UAE stands to benefit directly from any easing of sanctions that have dampened regional trade.

Reporting by Anna Yukhananov; Editing by Leslie Adler