The federal government denied Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan permission Wednesday to accept a promised $1-billion gift from Libya to help African Americans economically and politically.
Accused of supporting global terrorism, Libya for years has been under U.S. sanctions that bar most financial transactions between the two countries and limit travel.
Farrakhan had applied last week to the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control, asking that he be granted an exemption from the sanctions to permit acceptance of the $1 billion pledged by Libyan leader Moammar Kadafi during a visit Farrakhan made to Libya in January.
The Treasury Department denied that request in a message to Farrakhan's lawyers in Chicago, asserting the continuing need of the United States to enforce its policy of isolating Libya.
The government denial came just a day after Farrakhan said if the exemptions were not approved, "I will go across the nation stirring up not only my people, but all those who would benefit from it."
Farrakhan was en route to Libya where he is scheduled to receive a $250,000 humanitarian award from Kadafi on Saturday. That gift, too, was barred by the government decision.
At a news conference in Chicago before his departure, Farrakhan said the U.S. government has left poor Americans "in the lurch" with a new welfare law and said he wanted to use the Libyan gift to help blacks and the poor.
"We are not terrorists," Farrakhan said. "We are not trying to do anything against the good of America. What we want to do is good for our people and ultimately the good for our nation."
At the State Department, spokesman Glyn Davies said before Wednesday's announcement that "obviously Kadafi has an interest . . . in gaining a foothold here in the United States in some fashion. . . . And of course, that kind of talk is not something that we view positively at all."