Saudis further isolate Taliban

Afghan Embassy in Pakistan is sole link to outside world

U.N. boosts aid for refugees

Terrorism Strikes America

The World

September 26, 2001|By John Murphy | John Murphy,SUN FOREIGN STAFF

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - Saudi Arabia cut diplomatic ties with Afghanistan yesterday, further isolating the fiercely independent Taliban government that has sheltered the accused terrorist Osama bin Laden.

A Saudi government statement said the kingdom was severing diplomatic relations because the ruling Taliban have rebuffed Saudi efforts "to persuade them to stop harboring criminals and terrorists, and training them and inciting them." Bin Laden, who was born in Saudi Arabia, was stripped of Saudi citizenship in 1994.

Since 1996, bin Laden has lived in Afghanistan as a "guest" of the Taliban government, which has refused demands to hand him over to the United States. The United Arab Emirates broke diplomatic relations with the Taliban over the weekend, and Pakistan withdrew its diplomatic staff from Kabul, the Afghan capital.

That has left the Afghan Embassy in Pakistan's capital, Islamabad, as the Taliban's only link to the outside world. Pakistan said it had no plans to cut ties with the Taliban.

"As the only country that has contacts with the government of Afghanistan, maybe we can serve a role for communication between the world community and the government of Afghanistan," said Pakistani Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar.

Bin Laden's associates meanwhile continued a war of invective, calling on Muslims to wage a holy war against Americans and Jews if the United States retaliates against Afghanistan.

"Wherever there are Americans and Jews, they will be targeted," said a statement faxed to news organizations here in the name of Al Qaeda's chief military commander, Naseer Ahmed Mujahed. "We can defend ourselves. The holy warriors are fully prepared."

The statement continued, "Wherever there are Muslims, they should prepare for jihad, and by the grace of God, the victory will be Islam's."

According to the Associated Press, about 500 people staged a noisy anti-U.S. demonstration in Kabul yesterday, shouting, "Death to America!" and "Long live Osama bin Laden."

The Taliban-run newspaper Anis quoted a senior Taliban minister as saying that "fresh holy warriors" were volunteering to join the militia.

U.S. military officials, meanwhile, continued meeting with Pakistani counterparts to discuss the logistics of mounting an attack on Afghanistan, where bin Laden is believed to be hiding. However, the Taliban said this week that they were unable to locate bin Laden.

Pakistan's efforts to cooperate with the United States won praise yesterday from a European Union delegation that met with Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf.

"Pakistan has shown that it can and will, in very difficult circumstances, take up its responsibility as a member of the international community. The EU greatly appreciates this courageous posture," said Louis Michel, chairman of the EU Council of Ministers. The EU delegation is on a five-day tour of the region to build support for the anti-terrorism campaign.

The EU also announced that it had set aside $18 million in emergency aid to help Pakistan manage the humanitarian crisis unfolding as Afghans seek refuge there.

"We think that, like other members of the international community, we must dig deep in our pockets to make sure Pakistan is not destabilized by the humanitarian crisis which might be about to hit the country," said Chris Patten, the EU commissioner for external relations.

Fearing that a U.S. attack may be imminent, thousands of Afghan refugees have flooded across the border into Pakistan in the past two weeks. United Nations officials are preparing to step up efforts to assist the refugees in Pakistan, which has sealed its borders.

Twenty years of conflict, three years of severe drought, and human rights abuses have left about 5 million Afghans in need of aid to survive, U.N. officials say.

The United Nations World Food Program decided yesterday to resume aid shipments on a trial basis to northern and western Afghanistan, where hundreds of thousands of people are running dangerously low on food supplies. The WFP had suspended food shipments to Afghanistan on Sept. 12, citing security concerns stemming from the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.

About 1,400 tons of food stored in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar was seized by the Taliban, said Khaled Adly, the regional director for the World Food Program.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, meanwhile, is preparing camps to provide shelter for the continuing influx of refugees, including up to 10,000 Afghans waiting to cross the border near Quetta. Pakistan had sealed its 1,500-mile border with Afghanistan, but U.N. officials want the border near Quetta reopened temporarily.

Although the number of refugees trapped at the border is relatively small, it represents just a small portion of the people fleeing, says Peter Kessler, a spokesman for UNHCR.

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