World News

U.N. drops ex-Taliban ministers from sanctions list

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United Nations said on Tuesday that a Security Council committee removed five former senior Taliban officials from its sanctions list, something Afghan President Hamid Karzai has been pushing for.

The United Nations said in a statement that the decision was made on Monday on the basis of a review of the original listings and the five would no longer be subject to international travel bans and asset freezes.

The decision came days before a 60-nation conference in London to set a framework for handing security over to Afghan forces. NATO powers are expected to back Karzai’s plan to reach out to Taliban insurgents. Removal from the U.N. Taliban and al Qaeda sanctions list is among the incentives under discussion.

All five were high-ranking members of the former Taliban government. Four were listed as former foreign minister Wakil Ahmad Muttawakil, former deputy minister of commerce Fazal Mohammad, former Taliban press officer Shams-us-Safa Aminzai and former deputy minister of planning Mohammad Musa Hottak.

It said the fifth, former deputy minister of frontier affairs Abdul Hakim, had renounced the Taliban three years ago and was now a governor of Uruzgan province. It did elaborate on the status of the others.

All five were put on the U.N. blacklist in 2001.

There was nothing in the statement that indicated the five had recently been involved in the insurgency against the government and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

The Taliban government was toppled by a U.S.-led invasion shortly after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States. Washington organized the invasion after the Taliban refused to hand over al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

Diplomats say that Russia has traditionally been reluctant to remove any rehabilitated Taliban from the U.N. sanctions list, but U.S. and other Western diplomats have been lobbying them to permit de-listings as an incentive for persuading insurgents to support Karzai’s government.

Reporting by Louis Charbonneau; editing by Anthony Boadle