UN to delink al-Qaida and Taliban sanctions

The U.N. Security Council has decided to treat al-Qaida and the Taliban separately when it comes to U.N. sanctions in an attempt to more effectively fight terrorism and support the Afghan government's reconciliation efforts.

The council scheduled a meeting Friday afternoon to vote on two new resolutions — one aimed at individuals and organizations on a sanctions blacklist because of links to al-Qaida and others on a blacklist because of links to the hardline Islamic Taliban regime.

The separate resolutions would symbolically delink al-Qaida and the Taliban and recognize their different agendas. While Al-Qaida is focused on worldwide jihad against the West and establishment of a religious state in the Muslim world, Taliban militants have focused on their own country and have shown little interest in attacking targets abroad.

Germany's U.N. Ambassador Peter Wittig, who chairs the Security Council committee that currently monitors sanctions against the two groups, told reporters in Kabul earlier this month that separating the sanctions regimes would futher highlight "the significance of the political efforts that are ongoing in Afghanistan."

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has been making peace overtures to members of the Taliban, which ruled Afghanistan for five years and sheltered al-Qaida before being driven out of power in the U.S.-led invasion in late 2001. The Taliban have long demanded removal from the sanctions list to help promote reconciliation.

The U.S. and Afghan governments have said that they are willing to reconcile with Taliban members who renounce violence, embrace the Afghan constitution and sever ties with al-Qaida.

The spokesman at Britain's U.N. Mission said splitting the sanctions list will emphasize that after Osama bin Laden's death it's time for the Taliban to break with al-Qaida and join the political process.

The Security Council imposed sanctions against the Taliban in November 1999 for refusing to send bin Laden to the United States or a third country for trial on terrorism charges in connection with the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.

The sanctions — a travel ban, arms embargo and assets freeze — were later extended to al-Qaida. In July 2005, the council extended the sanctions again to cover affiliates and splinter groups of al-Qaida and the Taliban.

Since sanctions were first imposed, questions have been raised about the fairness of the list and the rights of those claiming to have been unfairly included.

The current U.N. sanctions list for both al-Qaida and the Taliban includes about 450 people, entities and organizations, including roughly 140 with links to the Taliban.

The Afghan government has asked a U.N. panel to take about 50 Taliban figures off the sanctions list. The sanctions committee was expected to rule on the requests this week, but diplomats said the council extended the deadline until July 15 to give delegations more time to consider the information provided by the Afghan government in support of the delisting requests.