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UN Removes Names From Taliban Sanctions Blacklist

The UN Security Council has decided to remove 45 names from its Taliban and Al-Qaeda sanctions blacklist.

Thomas Mayr-Harting, chairman of the UN Security Council panel that maintains the list, said that from the original 488 names on the list, 35 of the de-listed names had been associated with Al-Qaeda and 10 with the Taliban.

Additionally, eight of the names were people who had died. The council says it is still reviewing 66 names.

Of the 35 linked with Al-Qaeda, 14 are individuals and 21 are entities such as firms and foundations including companies based in Europe and the United States.

People or organizations on the list are subject to a travel ban and an asset freeze.

There's been no official reaction yet from the government in Kabul. Afghan President Hamid Karzai's spokesman declined comment today, saying they had not yet received the list.

'Positive Signal'

Karzai has been asking the UN to review the list in hopes that delisting some 20 names would help advance reconciliation talks with insurgents.

"It would certainly have positive effects [on the whole process of reconciliation] and build mutual trust," Kabir Ranjbar, a member of Afghanistan's parliament, told RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan today.

"We must show encouraging signs to the Taliban that are willing to lay down weapons, give up on violence and ready to live a peaceful life and in accordance to the Afghan Constitution."

Ranjbar added that dropping "certain names" from the UN blacklist "indicates to the rest that the world community and the Afghan government is ready to treat them with respect only if they follow the same path. It shows that the world and the Afghan government provide them with a fair chance to start living a normal and peaceful life.

"More importantly, not only their names are dropped from the list, but they can travel and live normally, reactivate their bank accounts. This is a very encouraging and positive move."

However, Aziz Royesh, a political analyst based in Kabul, says that while the delisting of certain names is "encouraging," he doubts it will help combat the insurgency in Afghanistan.

"I think eliminating some names does not solve the problem because they [Taliban] aren't challenging the regime and the international community simply because their names are in the UN blacklist," Royesh says.

"They are challenging the legitimacy of the Afghan government. Considering their latest military operations, I think they are in a superior position."

Security Council Review

In order for a name to be deleted, it must be proved that the organization or individual has no links to Al-Qaeda, is not involved in terrorist activities, and has accepted the Afghan Constitution.

Even when the person is assumed to be dead, their death and the state of their assets must be verified. Information about the individual or organization is generally difficult to confirm since many are located in remote areas near the Afghan-Pakistani border. All 15 members of the Security Council have to agree to remove a name.

Some diplomats say that Russia had been particularly hesitant to approve the delisting of names because of worries about drug trafficking and rebel groups in Chechnya that are linked to the Taliban.

This review by the Security Council, which has taken 18 months, is the only such audit since the list was created in 1999.

with material from RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan, agencies
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