Billion Dollar Buddies

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WASHINGTON, D.C.: Louis Farrakhan seems to have an unshakable fascination with big ideas, big numbers, and things that make the U.S. government nervous. His latest project, an application to accept one billion dollars from Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, combines all three. Farrakhan has applied to the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control for permission to accept the money. He reportedly wants to use the cash to organize black voters, and to beef up the economic power of blacks by building schools and factories. "The issue is of concern to the U.S. government," says TIME's Douglas Waller. "But not because Gaddafi actually plans to hand over a billion dollars. In the Middle East, a lot of countries promise huge sums of money to organizations but rarely deliver. The one and only reason Gaddafi would offer this much is for propaganda among black Muslims in the U.S. Gaddafi has no interest in urban renewal. In fact, his offer is likely to be worth more as propaganda if it is denied." As part of its efforts to isolate Libya as a supporter of terrorism, the U.S. has forbidden most business transactions between the two countries, and must approve any billion-dollar windfall. After a whirlwind tour of Libya, Iran, Nigeria and Sudan last January, which White House spokesman Mike McCurry called a "thugfest tour," Farrakhan is not very popular in the White House, which may work against him. -->