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Mark Devenport reports from UN headquarters
"The Taleban says the US has made no legal case linking bin Laden to the bombing of the US embassies"
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Thursday, 7 December, 2000, 23:56 GMT
US and Russia unite against Taleban
Camps in Afghanistan
Taleban say sanctions would worsen terrible situation
The United States and Russia have joined forces in a move to tighten arms and economic sanctions against the Taleban movement which rules most of Afghanistan.

A joint draft resolution proposed to the United Nations Security Council demands that the Taleban close down guerrilla camps regarded by Washington and Moscow as terrorist training centres.

The resolution also calls for the handing over of Islamic fundamentalist leader, Osama bin Laden, who is believed to be in Afghanistan.

Pakistan - the only country to recognise the Taleban administration - has protested against the draft resolution, saying it would scuttle any chance of the UN negotiating an end to the civil war in Afghanistan.

Air embargo tightened

The proposed measures, which would not apply to the anti-Taleban alliance in northern Afghanistan, have also been condemned by the Taleban authorities.

History has shown these curbs have had no results except for adding to the suffering of the people

Taleban deputy information minister

"Accepting pressure is against our national and religious dignity," said Taleban deputy information minister Abdur Rahman Hotak.

He said Osama bin Laden was, "a guest and upholder of the Afghan holy war" and called on the US to respect other nations' traditions.

The proposed sanctions would tighten the existing air embargo and freeze on Taleban assets abroad.

Opium harves
Chemicals for heroin production could be banned
In addition, they would ban the sale of chemicals, which are used to convert opium to heroin.

Moscow's UN ambassador, Sergey Lavrov, defended the proposed sanctions, claiming they should not disrupt efforts by UN diplomats to foster a peace process in Afghanistan.

He said: "The draft resolution submitted by Russia and the United States leaves ample room for continuation of the dialogue.

"The problem is that the Taleban never delivered on a single promise, be this to start the dialogue, be this to stop fighting, be this to treat women and girls properly or any other demand from the Security Council, in particular to stop the support for terrorism."

But the Taleban says the only effect of the sanctions will be to worsen an already terrible humanitarian situation.

"The US has always initiated sanctions against other countries, but history has shown these curbs have had no results except for adding to the suffering of the people."

Embassy bombings

The US holds Osama bin Laden responsible for bomb attacks aginst two of its embassies in East Africa in 1998 and hopes more sanctions will make the Taleban release him for trial.

Osama bin Laden
The US hopes sanctions will force bin Laden to come to court
But the Taleban says it has received no evidence implicating him in the bombings.

A statement from the US embassy in Pakistan on Wednesday insisted that "extensive evidence exists against Osama bin Laden and his collaborators.

"This evidence is public information available to all, including the Taleban."

Unusual alliance

The Americans and Russians believe they face a common threat from violent Islamic groups based in Afghanistan.

Russia thinks bin Laden has also had a hand in helping Islamic militants in Chechnya and elsewhere in the former Soviet Union.

The BBC Middle East analyst Roger Hardy says that the co-operation between the two countries is unusual and somewhat ironic.

Afghanistan was an important Cold War battleground, where the US backed Islamic warriors in their fight against the Soviet-backed government in Kabul.

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See also:

09 Nov 00 | Europe
Russia rules out Taleban talks
08 Apr 00 | South Asia
Hand over bin Laden, warns UN
21 Nov 00 | South Asia
Afghanistan's military stalemate
10 Jul 00 | South Asia
New fighting near Kabul
01 Jul 00 | South Asia
Taleban fighters launch new offensive
06 Aug 99 | South Asia
Osama bin Laden: America's most wanted
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