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UN: Security Council Reviews Plan To Enforce Anti-Taliban Sanctions

Amid reports of an escalation in fighting between Afghanistan's warring sides, the UN Security Council has begun reviewing ways to enforce the monitoring of anti-Taliban sanctions. Council members have broadly endorsed a proposed plan to involve Afghanistan's neighbors in a new monitoring system, but the Taliban's biggest supporter -- Pakistan -- has again spoken out against the council's sanctions policy. RFE/RL's UN correspondent Robert McMahon reports.

United Nations, 6 June 2001 (RFE/RL) -- UN Security Council members have expressed strong support for a new proposal to monitor arms flows into Taliban-controlled areas of Afghanistan.

Yesterday (5 June) the council held its first public review of the proposals made by a group of experts which called for a UN-sponsored monitoring system connecting all of Afghanistan's Central Asian neighbors. The expert group had been asked to recommend ways to enforce new arms sanctions against the Taliban that have so far been ineffective.

Led by the United States and Russia, the two members which pushed for the new sanctions in December, the council is expected to adopt many of the expert group's recommendations. The main aim of Washington and Moscow is the handover of accused terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden, and the shutdown of terrorist camps said to be operating on Taliban territory.

But the council yesterday faced some criticism for its approach in seeking to solve the Afghan crisis.

Ravan Farhadi is Afghanistan's ambassador to the United Nations, which continues to recognize the allied opposition forces -- known as the Northern Alliance --as the country's legitimate representative. Farhadi charged that Pakistan was continuing to aid the Taliban directly, despite the council's imposition of an arms embargo six months ago. The council, he said, must acknowledge this and pressure Pakistan to stop:

"Pakistan's direct involvement in Afghanistan and its aggressive policies in the region -- which is a threat to international peace and security -- is not addressed properly in the Security Council. Thousands of Pakistani fighters are recruited and openly sent to Afghanistan from different segments of Pakistani society, including its military."

The UN expert group cited Pakistan as a key source of military support for the Taliban forces. It said many Taliban recruits come from religious schools -- known as madrassas -- situated near Pakistan's border with Afghanistan. The group said these schools include in their instructions training in the use of firearms, and that Pakistani officials have failed to halt this training.

Pakistan's ambassador to the United Nations, Shamshad Ahmad, rejected these allegations yesterday. He said Pakistan remains in full compliance with Security Council resolutions on Afghanistan.

But Ahmad also urged the council to end its policy of isolating the Taliban leaders. He criticized an arms embargo that allows the Northern Alliance to continue to receive outside military support to battle the Taliban:

"We are adhering to the resolutions on Afghanistan, even though we are not in favor of sanctions as a matter of principle. We believe sanctions are an unjust instrument and they are never productive. They never produce the desired results. They only hurt common people."

Still, anti-Taliban sentiment on the council means the sanctions policy is not likely to change any time soon. Council members yesterday voiced strong support for the main feature of the expert group's recommendation -- the establishment of sanctions support teams in the countries bordering Afghanistan.

As envisioned, these teams would be made up of experts on customs, border security and counter-terrorism, and would enhance existing border forces in these countries. They would be directed by a newly formed Office for Sanctions Monitoring and Coordination, likely to be based in New York.

China's ambassador to the UN, Wang Yingfan, expressed some doubts about the proposal and urged a slow approach to carrying out any comprehensive monitoring plan. He added that China's 92-kilometer border with Afghanistan is dominated by hard-to-traverse terrain and likely would not be part of a new UN mechanism.

But Russia's UN ambassador, Sergei Lavrov, urged the council to move forward quickly on the recommendations:

"I understand it is difficult to do, but to do nothing is even worse, and I think that the experts, in the plan they proposed, are looking to make a realistic step forward."

The proposals also received support from the ambassadors of Iran and Uzbekistan, who said Afghanistan remains a destabilizing force in the region.

Iran's ambassador to the UN, Nejad Hosseinian, said Tehran agrees with the expert group's finding that drug trafficking is helping the Taliban leadership fund its military campaigns.

The expert group recommended that the flow of drugs from Afghanistan should be monitored as part of the arms embargo. Hosseinian said that despite the Taliban's recent ending of the planting of opium poppies, it still possessed enormous reserves of drugs it can profit from through trafficking.

"The Taliban leadership should have banned illicit drugs in all its aspects and ordered the stockpile destroyed, had it been driven solely and genuinely by religious considerations. According to our information, the stockpiles of drugs in Afghanistan are huge enough to feed the market for about 10 years."

Iran is a major transit point between drug producers in Afghanistan and Pakistan and the markets of Europe and the Gulf. Iranian security forces have mounted a major effort to crack down on trafficking, but they are able to stop only a small portion of the drugs that come into the country each year.

In the most recent incident, reported yesterday, Iranian policemen and drug smugglers engaged in a series of clashes in eastern Iran. Iranian media said police seized 2.4 tons of drugs, arrested dozens of traffickers, and confiscated arms and ammunition after the clashes.