Afghans welcome arms embargo, not economic sanctions: UN

via The Times of India,
August 23, 2000

ISLAMABAD: The people of Afghanistan are "highly vulnerable" to further economic sanctions but would welcome an arms embargo to limit the civil war, the United Nations said on Tuesday.

The Office of the UN Coordinator for Afghanistan said most Afghans felt an arms embargo would "command widespread support and moral authority" but any more economic curbs would only inflame their sense of victimisation.

"As noted by many, UN restrictions on the transfer of weapons would avoid the humanitarian contradictions that are associated with economic measures," the office said in a report on the impact of UN sanctions imposed in November.

"The population of Afghanistan is highly vulnerable and has little capacity to cope with any further economic shocks."

The report would appear to bring the UN one step closer to announcing an arms embargo against the country which has been ravaged by one war or another for more than 20 years.

Financial and aviation sanctions were imposed on the ruling Taliban militia last year after it refused to hand over suspected terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden to the United States for trial.

Bin Laden, a wealthy Saudi exile who lives under Taliban protection in Afghanistan, is accused of plotting the 1998 US embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania which killed more than 200 people.

On the second anniversary of the bombings earlier this month, US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Washington had been "exploring further United Nations measures against the Taliban."

"These could include a travel ban on Taliban members, the closing of Taliban representative offices and an arms embargo. These kind of measures are under discussion with other members of the Security Council," he said.

Russia and the United States in June agreed to cooperate more closely on the alleged terrorist threat emanating from Afghanistan, which is blamed for training Islamic militants to fight in places like Chechnya and Kashmir.

The UN has also expressed frustration after renewed fighting broke out in June despite repeated appeals for both sides to seek a peaceful solution.

UN special envoy to Afghanistan Francesc Vendrell has recently told journalists he believes the Taliban are responsible for the latest outbreak of fighting, a claim vehemently denied by Kabul.

The Taliban seized Kabul in 1996 and control most of the country, except for pockets of resistance from opposition forces loyal to ousted president Burhanuddin Rabbani.

The UN report said the sanctions imposed in November, including a freeze on Taliban offshore assets and a ban on international flights by the national airline, "came on top of a devastating drought and large-scale population displacement."

"Almost all households without an able-bodied male are vulnerable and rely on food aid, children's work and begging to survive," it said.

It said the sanctions had "magnified the extent to which ordinary Afghans feel isolated and victimised" and noted the violent reaction against UN staff in Kabul after they were imposed.

The Taliban earlier this month warned that more sanctions would spark a global Islamic backlash and destroy any chance for negotiations over bin Laden.

"Muslims, as a united body, will come to the conclusion that America, Russia and the UN are confronting Islam," Information Minister Qudratullah Jamal said.

He said there was no evidence against bin Laden and that his protection from the Taliban was as "Islamic policy with no room for amendments." (AFP)

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