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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Taliban Reacts to Sanctions With Product Boycott

KABUL, Afghanistan - The ruling Taliban militia reacted swiftly Wednesday to news of harsh new United Nations sanctions by ordering Afghans to boycott products from the two sponsors of the measure - the United States and Russia.

The U.N. Security Council on Tuesday gave the Taliban a month to surrender Osama bin Laden and close ?terrorist? training camps or suffer new sanctions. The move sparked anger in Afghanistan, ravaged by 20 years of war, brutal poverty and persistent drought.

The Taliban ordered an immediate boycott of U.S. and Russian products and of U.N.-mediated talks with opposition fighters, Taliban Foreign Minister Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil said at a press conference.

The ruling militia, which enforces a strict brand of Islam on the nation, also promised to close U.N. political offices and expel its eight staffers when the sanctions take effect in 30 days, but said other humanitarian and U.N. aid workers won't be affected.

The resolution calls for an arms embargo against the Taliban, bans international travel by Taliban officials, closes Taliban offices outside the country and further restricts international flights.

"These are cruel sanctions, unjust, irrational and unilateral," Mullah Abdul Zalam Zaeef, the Taliban's ambassador to Pakistan, told a news conference.

The Taliban also urged all Islamic countries to join them in a boycott of American and Russian products "to hurt the economy of these countries," Muttawakil said.

The boycott is little more than a gesture since Afghans, among the poorest people in the world, can't afford the few U.S. products on the market here, such as cigarettes and candy. Still, some equipment runs on Russian or U.S. technology and would need spare parts.

A resident in Kabul echoed the thoughts of many on the streets of the beleaguered Afghan capital. "Step by step the international community is killing Afghanistan," said Mohammed Zahir, 55. "Slowly, slowly they are letting us die."

The United States and Russia, former superpower rivals over Afghanistan, lobbied the 13 other Security Council members hard to adopt the resolution. They argued the country was a "haven of lawlessness" whose hard-line Islamic rulers protect terrorists at home and support terrorism abroad.

The Taliban's Information Minister Qadratullah Jamal said the new sanctions won't result in the extradition of bin Laden.

?Our position on Osama is unchanged. There is no evidence against Osama. We think this is just an excuse. The United States and Russia are using the excuse of Osama and terrorism, but really it is the Islamic system of the Taliban they want to destroy," said Jamal in an interview with The Associated Press in Kabul.

Aid groups and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan objected to Tuesday's resolution, saying residents of Afghanistan likely will suffer.

China and Malaysia abstained, voicing humanitarian worries but also objecting to a one-sided arms embargo when the United Nations is trying to bring the Taliban army and its opposition to the negotiating table. The Taliban rule 95 percent of Afghanistan but are still fighting an opposition group in the north.

In war-ruined Kabul, Afghans reacted with anger and frustration, saying the world had forgotten them.

"Why is the United Nations doing this to us?" 45-year-old Bizmullah Balkhi asked as he and hundreds of people waited in frigid temperatures to get a bus toward Pakistan. "We have so many problems in this country."

Neighboring Pakistan objected more strenuously: It warned Wednesday that the sanctions will add to a humanitarian disaster at its doorstep.

Thousands of Afghans took up a vigil on the border pleading with Pakistan to open its gates. Poor Pakistan receives limited international aid and no U.N. assistance to feed or house the 2 million Afghan refugees already living in the country.

Militant Islamic groups headquartered in Pakistan said sanctions reflect a Western fear of the Taliban's interpretation of Islam, which bans women from working, limits schooling for girls, imposes harsh and public punishments and requires men to pray in the mosque and grow beards.

They also warned that the sanctions could generate a backlash from the Islamic world.

On Tuesday, the United Nations withdrew all its international staff fearful of a violent backlash to the sanctions from disgruntled Afghans. So far Wednesday it was peaceful in Kabul.

Jamal told The AP that the United Nations staff can return anytime and be assured of their safety.

With the majority of Kabul's one million people dependent on international assistance, the United Nations said its humanitarian programs should continue, but operated by Afghan staff.

Washington heavily bankrolled Islamic insurgents during the 1980s war in Afghanistan against invading soldiers of the former Soviet Union. In 1992, the communist government fell and Islamic factions took control, then turning their guns on each other until 1996 when the Taliban took control of most of the country, including Kabul.

Factions led by ousted President Burhanuddin Rabbani joined together under the banner of the northern opposition to try to stop the Taliban from gaining full control of the country.