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Afghanistan: U.S. Imposes Sanctions On Taliban

Washington, 7 July 1999 (RFE/RL) -- The United States has imposed sanctions on Afghanistan's ruling Taliban movement because of its apparent support for Osama bin Laden, the man accused of masterminding the bombing of two U.S. embassies in Africa last year that killed more than 220 people.

The White House announced Tuesday President Bill Clinton has issued an executive order intended to block Taliban assets in the United States as well as U.S. imports to and exports from Taliban-controlled territory in Afghanistan.

Overall trade between the two countries is relatively modest, amounting to about 24 million dollars. U.S. officials say they will continue political contacts with the Taliban at the United Nations as well as such humanitarian programs as helping Afghanistan get rid of land mines.

In his executive order, Clinton said the United States has tried repeatedly to persuade the Taliban to expel bin Laden to the United States for trial or to a third country to face justice. He said these efforts have failed.

Clinton said: "The executive order I have signed will deepen the international isolation of the Taliban, limit its ability to support terrorist networks and demonstrate the need to conform to accepted norms of international behavior."

At the State Department, spokesman James Foley further explained the U.S. action.

Foley said: "President Clinton has formally determined that actions and policies of the Taliban pose threats to U.S. national security and foreign policy interests. We have undertaken very vigorous and consistent efforts vis-a-vis the Taliban to persuade them to stop harboring bin Laden and his terrorist infrastructure."

The spokesman added: "And so we finally decided to take action because the Taliban themselves have not taken action. They basically face a choice whether they want to be able to trade with the United States, want to be able to enjoy the reputation as an organization that aspires to a responsible political role, or whether they want to be shunned and isolated for giving harbor to bin Laden."

Foley said bin Laden and his group are still planning to carry out terrorist attacks against American interests.

He said: "Over the past few months, we've received intelligence reflecting a pattern of activity that indicated planning for terrorist attacks against American interests by bin Laden and his associates. This terrorist threat is continuing, as shown by measures we had to take last week to close temporarily half a dozen U.S. embassies in Africa." Of the six U.S. embassies, the one in Madagascar remains closed.

A State Department official who asked not to be identified said Washington hopes that Clinton's executive order will now get the Taliban's attention.

Bin Laden, a Saudi businessman, lived as a guest of the Islamic movement in Afghanistan for several years. He was reported to have left a base in the southern city of Kandahar after falling out with the Islamic fundamentalist regime.

In February, the Taliban said bin Laden had "disappeared" with his bodyguards. The United States disputes the Taliban's contention that it has no information about his whereabouts.

The United States does not recognize the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan, saying it fails to respect international norms on human rights, drugs and terrorism.

The State Department has announced a 5 million dollar reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of bin Laden.

Last year, the U.S. launched rocket attacks on what it believed to be a bin Laden terrorist base in Afghanistan and alleged chemical weapons facilities in Sudan.