Interpal - the Palestinian Relief and Development Fund – had given the Board 14 days to apologise before instigating legal action for defamation.

With less than 24 hours to go before the deadline runs out, an apology had not been received said defamation lawyer Cameron Doley on Thursday evening.

The Board ran into trouble earlier this month when it issued a press release on its website saying it had written to foreign secretary Jack Straw calling on Hamas, Interpal and other "terrorist organisations" to be banned.

Palestinian children demonstrated
against the freezing of charitable
accounts last month

"Interpal is a British-registered charity and the trustees instructed me to write a letter 14 days ago.

Apology

"The Jewish Chronicle carried an article last week saying it (BJBD) was going to apologise, but as yet we have not received an apology and, quite frankly, if we don't receive an apology it is likely proceedings will be commenced," Doley told Aljazeera.net.

Doley, a partner with libel and defamation specialists Carter-Ruck - one of the most feared law firms in Britain - said a formal letter of claim had been sent nearly two weeks ago and the deadline for an apology and response would end on Friday.

“We have written to them and they were given 14 days to reply,”  said Ibrahim Hewitt, chairman of Interpal’s board of trustees.

“The lawyers are dealing with it and so at this moment we don’t want to say anything more,” he added.

Rebuke

Carter-Ruck solicitors have also written a letter to the Bush administration after Interpal was last month accused by the US of funding the radical Palestinian group Hamas.

Three days later, the British government launched its own investigation into Interpal and froze the charities assets.

Hewitt dismissed the US allegations in August. He took aim at the British government and said he was dismayed Britain had folded under US pressure to launch a politically motivated crackdown.

“Interpal is a politically neutral, British charity that the Charity Commission has recognised in the past as having no links to any terrorist groups," said Hewitt.

'Interpal is a reputable organisation doing excellent work bringing relief to those brutalised by the Israeli occupation'

Dr Iqbal Sacranie

“As a British citizen, I’m appalled our government appears to have surrendered its sovereignty on issues such as this,” he added.

The Charity Commission, which is leading the investigation into Interpal, has denied its action was linked to US or Israeli pressure, saying it opened informal enquiries in April.

Reputable group

UK Islamic organisations protested the treatment of Interpal. The secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, Dr Iqbal Sacranie, has said he wrote and spoke to Foreign Secretary Jack Straw about the matter.

“Interpal is a reputable organisation doing excellent work bringing relief to those brutalised by the Israeli occupation,” Sacranie said, “these allegations are part of an sinister campaign driven by the pro-Israeli lobby.”

"I am confident Interpal will be vindicated of these charges," he added. Interpal works through local charities – and with Israeli authorities – to assist humanitarian projects mainly in the Occupied Territories, Lebanon and Jordan.

Interpal was targeted for investigation in 1996, when its accounts were frozen after Israel accused the charity again of helping Hamas. But a two-month inquiry by the UK charity watchdog cleared it of any wrongdoing.

The British Jewish Board of Deputies didn’t return telephone calls after being asked to comment on the issue by Aljazeera.net.

Interpal was created in 1994 and donates packs for school children, food parcels and is involved in sponsorship schemes.