Taliban rejects UN curbs, boycotts US goods

 

Afghanistan's ruling Taliban movement yesterday rejected new UN Security Council sanctions as unjust and said it was closing a UN mission to the country and would boycott US goods in retaliation.

Taliban officials said their Islamist movement would not be forced to surrender the Saudi-born militant, Mr Osama bin Laden, who is wanted for trial by the US, but repeated offers for a settlement of the issue through talks.

A Security Council resolution adopted on Tuesday imposed an arms embargo on the Taliban and limited travel by senior Taliban officials.

There were no immediate reports of any protests against the sanctions, imposed until the radical Islamic Taliban surrenders Mr bin Laden and closes "terrorist" camps.

In an apparent move to avoid any violent backlash, the Taliban leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, issued a statement urging people to remain patient and not to hold any demonstrations.

The Taliban Information Minister, Mr Qudratullah Jamal, called the Security Council an enemy of Islam which was using Mr bin Laden as an excuse to stop the Taliban's Islamic movement.

Mr Jamal said Afghanistan had no "terrorist" camps and repeated the Taliban's defiance against handing over Mr bin Laden. "We will not change our Islamic regime for America's sake. Even if Osama's case is resolved they will find other excuses against us."

The 13-0 vote was sponsored by the US and Russia, despite objections from the UN Secretary-General, Mr Kofi Annan, who said the move would not facilitate peace efforts. China and Malaysia abstained.

Mr bin Laden has been charged by the US in the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed more than 200 people.

The Taliban ambassador to Pakistan, Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, told a news conference in Islamabad that the UN was no longer neutral in Afghanistan, and his Islamic movement would reject any UN mediation in peace talks against its opponents.

"In the meantime, UNSMA [UN Special Mission to Afghanistan] will be closed in retaliation to the closure of our offices outside the country," he said.

He said the goods boycott was necessary to break what he called US arrogance and a similar boycott could apply to Russian goods if that were considered to be in the Afghan interest.

But Mullah Zaeef said although Washington had rejected Taliban offers for talks in the past to settle the bin Laden affair, it still wanted talks.

"We still insist on negotiations," he said. "We are ready to settle this dispute in accordance with the laws of Islam. We are not terrorists and we are not happy with terrorist acts of others."

The Taliban Foreign Minister, Mr Maulvi Wakeel Ahmed Muttawakil, quoted by a Pakistan-based Afghan news service, said the curbs would not force the Taliban to hand over Mr bin Laden.

The resolution, difficult to enforce, aims to tighten an existing air embargo, directs the closure of Afghan Ariana Airlines offices abroad and freezes Taliban assets overseas.

It also bans imports of the chemical acetic anhydride, used to make heroin from opium, of which Afghanistan is a big producer.