- The Washington Times - Friday, January 11, 2002

NEW YORK The U.N. Security Council is rewriting its diplomatic, arms and air embargoes against Afghanistan so that they will apply only to the ousted Taliban regime and its al Qaeda terrorist allies.
Sanctions grounding Ariana, the national airline of Afghanistan, could be lifted as early as today.
"The idea of lifting the sanctions on Ariana is important because the Taliban is out of power and we don't see the need" to keep it grounded, said a U.S. official yesterday.
The existing sanctions, which expire on Jan. 19, barred countries from providing arms or intelligence to Afghanistan and instructed them to close their embassies in Kabul. Financial dealings were also proscribed under U.N. resolutions passed in 1999 and 2000.
Afghanistan's national airline, Ariana, was grounded in a 1999 attempt to force the Taliban rulers to turn over Osama bin Laden, then indicted for ordering the U.S. embassy bombings in Africa.
Now that the Taliban is out of power, diplomats say, they want to end the sanctions so the new U.N.-sponsored transitional administration can begin rebuilding the country.
Experts have been working all week to redraft the sanctions so that they will instead apply to the Taliban, Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terror network and its supporters wherever they may be.
"The most important thing for the U.S. government is that whatever sanctions regime we come up with we can still go after al Qaeda and Taliban forces and assets wherever they are in the world," said a U.S. official. "That is our concern, and it's as simple as that."
Although there is unanimous agreement to ease the sanctions against Afghanistan, the council as of yesterday had not reached agreement about how, exactly, to do it.
France and Russia, with Chinese support, want to throw out the old sanctions and replace them with a new arms and financing embargo focused on the Taliban and the al Qaeda network.
The British prefer to amend the existing program, saying that creating a whole new regime could compromise the continuity of sanctions, particularly in the case of frozen assets.
"If we scrap the old sanctions and [write] a new regime, there will be a dangerous gap in many nations," said a British envoy. "You don't want to see all those assets disappear the morning of [Jan.] 20th."
The matter is also complicated by differences over the duration of the new sanctions. China, France and Russia favor making the program subject to renewal after 12 months.
But London and Washington are resisting expiration dates, saying the sanctions against the Taliban and al Qaeda should never be allowed to lapse.
Nonetheless, Western diplomats yesterday said the differences were "bridgeable" and not likely to derail efforts to free Afghanistan of the outdated embargoes.

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