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UN: U.S. Wants Sanctions Against Taliban In Afghanistan

  • Joe Lauria

United Nations, 7 October 1999 (RFE/RL) -- Encouraged by Russia's efforts to help capture Osama bin Laden, the United States has introduced a resolution in the UN Security Council that would put sanctions on the Taliban movement in Afghanistan until the suspected terrorist is arrested and handed over to U.S. authorities.

Bin Laden, indicted by a federal court last November for masterminding the August 1998 bombing of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed more than 200 people, is believed by U.S. and Russian intelligence to be operating out of Taliban-controlled territory.

Last month, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said bin Laden has been in Chechnya several times, helping that Russian republic as well as neighboring Dagestan to break away from Moscow with financial and material support. The Russians have also accused the Saudi dissident of being behind apartment building bombings in Moscow last month that killed nearly 300 people.

The draft resolution offered Wednesday would ground all flights of aircraft operated by the Taliban movement, which has controlled nearly all Afghan territory since violently seizing power in 1996. All assets held by the Taliban would also be frozen by the resolution, which diplomats say could be passed as early as the end of this week.

The U.S. imposed its own sanctions against flights by the Taliban-controlled Ariana Afghan airline last August. Cutting off international flights could be costly to landlocked Afghanistan.

Washington decided to extend its sanctions into a worldwide ban because of Russian support in the effort to stop bin Laden, said a Western diplomat, who asked not to be named. The diplomat said Britain, France and China, the other permanent council members, also support the resolution.

The U.S. had been working on the text of the Security Council resolution for the past two weeks and introduced it into the council just a few days after Russia took over as council president for October.

Sergei Lavrov, Russia's UN ambassador said: "We believe terrorism is a threat and the Taliban is violating all possible decisions of the United Nations. We support the resolution."

The Clinton administration believes bin Laden, who fought in Afghanistan's war against the Soviet Union earlier this decade, is planning more attacks against Americans or American interests. Last week, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright designated bin Laden's organization, Al-Qa'ida, a foreign terrorist organization, which gave the U.S. more authority to freeze its assets. Al-Qa'ida's headquarters are in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar.

Two months ago, the U.S. said it would seize the Afghan airline's U.S. assets, estimated at $500 million. Since the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan the airline's only international flights have been to Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates. U.S. officials say Pakistan is the Taliban's chief ally and have not cooperated with efforts to bring bin Laden to justice.

Like all countries, Pakistan would be bound by the UN sanctions, which quotes bin Laden by name. The resolution deplores "the fact that the Taliban continue to provide safe haven to Usama bin Laden and to allow him and others associated with him to operate a network of terrorist training camps from Taliban-controlled territory and use Afghanistan as a base from which to sponsor international terrorist operations."

It demands that the Taliban "renounce the provision of sanctuary and training for international terrorists and their organizations, take appropriate practical measures to ensure that the territory under their control is not used for terrorists installations and camps, or for the preparation or organization of terrorist acts against other states or their citizens."

The Taliban movement denies bin Laden is involved in terrorist activities and also says it has no extradition treaty with the U.S.

Bin Laden is on the FBI's 10-most-wanted list and has offered a $5 million reward for his arrest. A U.S. district court has set a trial date of Sept. 5, 2000 for the eight men accused of the embassy bombings.

A Muslim guerrilla leader fighting Russian forces in Chechnya and Dagestan denied to the London-based Arab language Asharq al-Awsat newspaper last week that his guerrillas were receiving help from bin Laden.

The Security Council says in the draft resolution that it will consider additional measures against the Taliban unless bin Laden is turned over. Diplomats said this could include an arms embargo on the Islamic fundamentalists.