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UN: U.S./Russia Push To Pressure Taliban

The United States and Russia have introduced a UN Security Council resolution banning arms sales to Afghanistan's ruling Taliban regime in response to what they say is continued support for terrorism. The measure is expected to be adopted by the council but opposition by the Taliban's main ally -- Pakistan -- could make enforcement difficult. UN correspondent Robert McMahon reports.

United Nations, 8 December 2000 (RFE/RL) -- The United States and Russia have proposed raising international pressure on Afghanistan's Taliban rulers to turn over alleged terrorist Osama bin Laden.

The two countries yesterday (Thursday) introduced a joint resolution in the UN Security Council that calls for an arms embargo on the Taliban in response to its failure to comply with last year's resolution. That resolution called for the Taliban to hand over bin Laden for extradition, end human rights abuses of women, and stop the vast opium trade from Afghanistan, among other measures.

Russia's ambassador to the United Nations, Sergei Lavrov, told reporters there has been no sign of cooperation from the Taliban leaders.

"The problem is that the Taliban never delivered on a single promise, be this to start the (peace) dialogue, be this to stop fighting, be this to treat women and girls properly, or any other demand from the Security Council -- in particular, to stop the support for terrorism."

U.S. and Russian officials are most concerned about Taliban support for terrorism. Taliban representatives have repeatedly denied such support, but the draft resolution says Afghan territory under the Taliban's control continues to be used for sheltering and training terrorists and planning terrorist acts.

A senior U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told reporters that U.S. authorities have a "good idea" where terrorist camps are located on Taliban-controlled territory. He declined to be more specific.

The U.S. government has indicted bin Laden for allegedly masterminding the bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa in the summer of 1998. U.S. officials also believe he is behind other terrorist schemes against American targets.

Russian officials have also raised strong protests against bin Laden and Taliban officials for the support they have expressed for Chechen rebels. Moscow sees the Taliban as a source of growing instability for Central Asia, where there has been a rise in incidents during the past two years involving armed Muslim fundamentalist fighters.

Both U.S. and Russian officials stressed that the arms embargo and other proposed sanctions would be targeted at Taliban leaders, not at a population suffering the effects of a lengthy civil war and drought. The sanctions would not apply to the Northern Alliance, which controls roughly 10 percent of Afghan territory.

The initial response from the Taliban was defiance. News agencies quote Taliban Deputy Information Minister Abdur Rahman as saying Thursday that sanctions against the Taliban movement were futile.

The proposal was strongly criticized by Pakistan, one of the few nations with diplomatic relations with Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. Pakistan's ambassador to the United Nations, Shamshad Ahmad, said the new arms sanctions would doom the latest attempt at starting a peace dialogue through UN special representative Francesc Vendrell.

"We believe that any new sanctions will also further isolate and insulate the Taliban, with whom the world has been seeking to engage constructively so that their policies can be influenced and moderated."

Ahmad also said the effect of the sanctions would be further hardship and suffering for Afghanistan's citizens. Pakistan is home to more than two million Afghan refugees and has repeatedly expressed concern at its ability to accommodate this growing number of displaced.

But the U.S.-Russian draft resolution welcomes the UN efforts at starting a round of political negotiations between the warring Afghan sides and encourages the Taliban side to continue with this newly restarted dialogue.

The resolution is expected to be adopted by the full council but the timing is not certain.