Global Policy Forum

Taleban Call Off Peace Talks

December 20, 2000

Afghanistan's Taleban rulers have reacted furiously to a UN Security Council decision to impose new sanctions on them. Taleban leaders denounced the UN as an "enemy of Islam" and said they were shutting down the UN special mission to Afghanistan and boycotting planned peace talks.

Agreed overnight, the measures are aimed at forcing the Taleban to hand over the Saudi-born militant Osama bin Laden, who is accused by the United States of plotting the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania which killed more than 250 people. The sanctions resolution also demands that the Taleban close what it refers to as terrorist training camps.

"The United Nations has no clue. They use Osama when they do not have something else. Our policy on Osama will remain the same," said Information Minister Qudratullah Jamal. "This is an issue against our Islamic system. We cannot change our system because America wants us to. Nor can we behave as they want."

Peace talks

The Taleban have called off any peace talks initiated by the United Nations Special Mission to Afghanistan (UNSMA), on the grounds that it is no longer neutral.

Last month the UN envoy won written assurances from both the Taleban and the opposition Northern Alliance that they would attend peace talks. No date had been set. It was to safeguard the prospect of these talks that UN Secretary-general Kofi Annan had opposed the new sanctions.

The Taleban also said they would boycott US and Russian goods - Washington and Moscow have co-operated in the measures against Taleban, accusing the organistation of sponsoring terrorism.

Sanctions regime

The Taleban, who captured the Afghan capital, Kabul, in 1996 and now rule some 90% of the country, have welcomed Mr bin Laden as a "guest" and a veteran of the 1979-89 "holy war" against Soviet occupation.

The sanctions, initiated by the United States and Russia:

-impose an arms embargo on the Taleban
-tighten an existing flight embargo
-tighten a freeze on the Taleban's assets abroad
-restrict the sale of chemicals used to make heroin from poppies - one of the country's most profitable crops
-close Afghan Ariana Airlines offices abroad

They do not ban arms sales to the anti-Taleban forces in the north of the country.

The sanctions are due to go into effect in a month's time if the Taleban do not comply with UN demands.

They were approved by 13 votes for and none against - with China and Malaysia abstaining - despite opposition from UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Aid workers evacuate

The UN and many international aid agencies have pulled all their foreign staff out of Afghanistan because of fears of a possible backlash. The last UN officials left Afghanistan by plane on Tuesday morning, saying they would be back as soon as possible.

Earlier the Pakistani Foreign Minister, Abdul Sattar, said the sanctions would force millions of Afghans to emigrate or perish, and would trigger "one of the greatest human tragedies of our time".

However correspondents say the measures may be difficult to enforce.

More Information on Afghanistan
More Information on Sanctions Against Afghanistan


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