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Tuesday, 25 September, 2001, 12:17 GMT 13:17 UK
Taleban face total isolation
Qatari Foreign Minister Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani (l), Saudi Arabia's Prince Saud and Bahrain's Sheikh Mohammed bin Mubarak al-Khalifa
Saudi Arabia accused the Taleban of "criminal acts"
Saudi Arabia has cut off diplomatic ties with the Taleban, further isolating the Afghan regime.

The Taleban Government is still continuing to use its land to harbour, arm and encourage... criminals in carrying out terrorist attacks

Saudi statement
Pakistan is now the only country in the world to recognise the Taleban, which is facing imminent attacks by US-led forces over its refusal to hand over Saudi-born Islamic militant Osama Bin Laden.

Saudi Arabia's decision is certain to be welcomed by the United States, which is trying to build a united front against the Taleban.

The Taleban maintain that they do not know the whereabouts of Bin Laden, named by the US as the main suspect for the 11 September attacks on New York and Washington.

However, the Saudi Government is still apparently resisting US pressure to allow American fighter planes to use its bases for an attack on Afghanistan.

Click here for a map of possible targets

The Saudi decision comes three days after the United Arab Emirates severed ties with Kabul.

Pakistani President Pervez Mursharraf has denied he is under international pressure to sever ties with the Taleban authorities, adding that he could see no requirement to break the relationship.

The BBC's Julia Wheeler in Dubai says suggestions there was a case for maintaining links as a channel of communication with the Taleban lost credence after the UAE failed to persuade the Taleban to hand over Bin Laden.

In other developments:

  • The United Nations is to resume food aid shipments to northern and western Afghanistan for the first time since the attacks on New York and Washington
  • UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw agrees to show Iran evidence linking Bin Laden with the attacks on the US
  • A high-level European Union delegation is holding talks with the Pakistani Government at the start of a regional tour of Asia and the Middle East
  • Thousands of Afghan refugees wait to enter Pakistan amid reports that a border crossing in the south-west is to be reopened
  • The World Health Organisation urges governments to prepare for possible chemical airborne raids
  • The IMF says it does not expect the global economy to fall into recession as a result of the impact of the attacks

In a statement to the Saudi Press Agency, Saudi Arabia said the Taleban "used its territory to attract young and inexperienced men from all nationalities, especially from Saudi Arabia, to carry out criminal acts that violate all religions and refused to hand over these criminals to justice".

Anti-US demonstrators in Pakistan
Anti-US feelings in Pakistan continue

The kingdom said it would continue to stand by fellow Muslims in Afghanistan.

Correspondents say the Saudi refusal to allow planes to fly attack missions from its bases is one of the most serious sticking points in the building of the US coalition that includes the Gulf States.

The Gulf State of Bahrain has not yet agreed to accept US forces on its territory for a strike against the Taleban either.

Russian support

US Secretary of State Colin Powell, meanwhile, has welcomed a Russian offer of support for US operations in Afghanistan, including the use of former Soviet airbases in central Asia.

Mr Powell said he was "very pleased" with Russian President Vladimir Putin's offer to widen cooperation in the fight against terrorism.
President Putin
Putin - has consulted his neighbours widely

US Secretary of State Colin Powell said anything which could weaken the Taleban would be helpful.

President Putin has further increased the pressure on the Taleban by saying that Russia would offer more arms and other supplies to the Northern Alliance, the group fighting the Taleban in northern Afghanistan.

For its part, the US administration has moved to cut off the flow of money to Osama Bin Laden, his al-Qaeda network and other groups it suspects of involvement in terrorism.

President Bush announced he had signed an executive order freezing the US assets of 27 individuals and organisations, as the country prepares for military action in response to the suicide attacks on New York and Washington.

Sharing intelligence

The BBC's correspondent in Moscow, Caroline Wyatt, says Mr Putin's most important offer to the US was to allow it and its allies to use former Soviet airbases in the countries surrounding Afghanistan.

Mr Putin said that those states, including Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, shared Russia's position.

And Russia will offer further pooling of intelligence, the president said, prior to leaving on a visit to Germany on Tuesday.

Before outlining his plan, Mr Putin held marathon meetings with his top security, defence and intelligence chiefs and met with leading parliament members.

One liberal parliament member was quoted by the Reuters news agency as saying that the president has ruled out sending troops into Afghanistan, where the Soviet Union had lost 15,000 soldiers in the 1980s.

Mr Putin also spoke on the phone to the presidents of the five central Asian nations, and met with a group of Russia's Islamic leaders.

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The BBC's James Robbins
reports on Tuesday's diplomatic developments
David Makovsky of the Washington Institute
"This might be a signal that the Saudis will do the right thing"
Middle East analyst and writer Dilip Hiro
"The Taleban were bankrolled by the Saudis"
See also:

25 Sep 01 | Middle East
Saudi statement in full
25 Sep 01 | Europe
A significant step for Russia
18 Sep 01 | South Asia
Who is Osama Bin Laden?
22 Sep 01 | Business
Terror attacks shares probe
19 Sep 01 | Business
Following the money trail
24 Sep 01 | Business
Will Bush's asset freeze work?
16 Sep 01 | Americas
Analysis: Building a coalition
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