UN Council to Impose Ban Against Taliban

UNITED NATIONS- The United States and Russia prepared Tuesday to put to a vote in the U.N. Security Council measures that would impose an arms embargo and other sanctions on Afghanistan's Taliban rulers until they surrender Saudi-born militant Osama bin Laden.

Despite fears of retaliation against U.N. relief workers, the 15-member Security Council is expected to approve the joint resolution by the former Cold War rival superpowers. China and Malaysia plan to abstain, diplomats said.

In anticipation of the vote, the United Nations said it was withdrawing its humanitarian staff from Afghanistan, fearing that people could react violently to additional U.N. sanctions. The impoverished nation depends heavily on foreign food and other supplies following 20 years of warfare and the worst drought in decades.

The resolution aims to force the Taliban to close "terrorist" training camps within 30 days and hand over bin Laden, charged by the United States with plotting the August 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Some 225 people died and more than 4,000 were wounded.

The measure also would tighten an existing flight embargo and a freeze on the Taliban's assets abroad. And it would ban the sale of chemicals used to convert opium to heroin.

The bans would go into effect one month after the resolution is adopted if the Taliban does not comply. They lapse in a year after which the council would have to vote to reimpose them.

A SELECTIVE WEAPONS BAN

But the most unusual provision in the resolution is a one-sided weapons ban on the Taliban, which some U.S. officials admit would be difficult to enforce but hope it would send a message to Pakistan to stop supplying Afghanistan with arms.

The arms embargo, if enforced, would benefit the opposition Northern Alliance, led by Gen. Ahmed Shah Massoud, a former Afghan defense minister. He controls a swath in the north near Tajikistan, one of several former Soviet republics believed to be facilitating his access to weapons, along with Russia.

The former Soviet Union was involved in more than nine years of military conflict in Afghanistan before its troops were driven out of the country in 1989, with help from the United States, which financed some of the rebels. In the ensuing civil war, Taliban forces captured Kabul in September 1996 and now control 90 percent of the country.

A year ago, the Security Council froze Taliban assets and imposed an air embargo on the Taliban-run Ariana Afghan Airlines to force the country's strict Islamist rulers to hand over bin Laden. The air ban, a U.N. report says, has slowed down delivery of some goods, cost jobs and jeopardized air safety on domestic flights because of lack of spare parts.

Specifically, the new resolution would ban all sales of arms and military equipment as well as military training. It also would demand the withdrawal of military and security advisers.

The measure would freeze assets of bin Laden and his organization and tell the Taliban to close within 30 days "all camps where terrorists are trained."

The flight ban would bar all Ariana airlines flights except those for humanitarian or religious purposes approved by a Security Council committee. Countries also would be asked to close all Ariana offices abroad.

TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS

Travel is restricted for senior Taliban officials except for humanitarian and religious purposes or for peace talks. And the resolution asks countries to close all Taliban offices, or at minimum reduce the number of staff.

Pakistan's U.N. ambassador, Shamshad Ahmad, whose country has close ties with the Taliban, has said that the sanctions would "scuttle" a peace process the United Nations was beginning with the combatants and would aggravate the suffering of Afghanis.

But Russian ambassador Sergei Lavrov contended the Taliban "never delivered on a single promise" in starting peace talks, stopping the war or improving the treatment of women and girls.

In New York, Abdul Hakeem Mujahid, the Taliban's most senior official in the Western world, has told the council that only a complete arms embargo would send a message of peace.

He said his country would respond to "legitimate legal demands to bring bin Ladin to justice."