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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 June 2006, 11:25 GMT 12:25 UK
UK's Brown backs Islamic finance
Bank customer in Kuwait
Islamic mortgages, loans and savings are now widely available
Chancellor Gordon Brown has pledged support for the growth of Islamic finance, saying the UK can act as "a gateway" for the growing industry.

He told the Islamic Finance and Trade Conference in London he wanted to make the UK a centre for Islamic investment.

He called for stronger trading links between the UK and Muslim countries as well as global trade reform.

Under Sharia Islamic law, making money from money, such as by charging interest, is not permitted.

'Alternative approach'

In a speech to the conference, which was organised by the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), Mr Brown said the UK was "well placed" to become a gateway for Islamic trade and finance.

Freer trade would boost economies in the Middle East in particular, he said.

He emphasised recent regulatory reforms which have ensured that financial frameworks are compliant with Sharia law.

The value of Islamic banking has risen sharply in recent years, with many of the world's largest banks offering financial products based on Islamic interest-free models.

The MCB said the conference was about more than consolidating existing trading relationships.

MCB secretary-general Dr Abdul Bari said: "We all know that the current climate of tension calls for an alternative approach, one that promotes peace and dialogue, and the trade and financial markets are an ideal platform for this."

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