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US warns Taliban an ‘international’ threat

Agence France presse, Saturday 16 December 2000, 7:01 AM SGT

WASHINGTON, Dec 15 (AFP)—The United States warned Friday that Afghanistan's Taliban was a threat to the “international community” as it pressed the case for new anti-terrorism sanctions against the country's rulers.

A joint Russian-US effort to pass further United Nations sanctions against the Taliban is intended to obtain the extradition of suspected master terrorist Osama bin Laden, who is believed to be sheltering in Afghanistan.

US Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian affairs Karl Inderfurth said the UN was poised to act, possibly as soon as next week, because the Taliban had not complied with previous sanctions intended to secure bin Laden's extradition.

“Let me be blunt about this: because of their support for terrorist organizations and the fact that they allow terrorist training camps in Afghan territory, the Taliban are a threat to the international community,” he said.

But Inderfurth added that the proposed sanctions were specifically targeted at the Taliban leadership, not the Afghan people many of whom live in appalling poverty after years of civil war.

“I want to make absolutely clear that these proposed UN sanctions are targeted only at the Taliban leadership. They are designed specifically to avoid harming the Afghan people.”

If adopted, the UN resolution would impose a legally-binding embargo on all arms sales to the Taliban.

Aviation and financial curbs were imposed on the fundamentalist militia last year.

The UN is now considering whether to increase pressure on Kabul with new curbs including an arms embargo against the Taliban but not their civil war enemies, further aviation restrictions and a travel ban against top officials.

Other measures would extend sanctions which took effect on November 16 last year to force the Taliban to hand over bin Laden to answer 224 counts of murder and other charges.

The indictments were filed in a New York court after the US embassy bombings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam in August 1998. Some 4,500 people were injured in the explosions.

If adopted, the resolution would require all countries to close all Taliban offices outside Afghanistan, freeze financial assets of bin Laden and his organization, Al-Qaida and close all foreign offices of the Afghan airline Ariana, and ban flights by all airlines to and from Afghanistan.

Inderfurth also warned that the Taliban would be an issue high on the agenda of the administration of president-elect George W. Bush who takes power next month.

“The Bush administration will have many urgent problems to face and unfortunately Afghanistan will be one of them,” he said.