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US asks Pakistan to close Taliban embassy in Islamabad, expel diplomats

US asks Pakistan to close Taliban embassy in Islamabad, expel diplomats

Author:
Publication: AFP
Date: November 21, 2001

Washington, Nov 21 (AFP) - The United States said Wednesday it had asked Pakistan to close the Taliban embassy in Islamabad and expel the militia's diplomats because their presence was no longer "useful." State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the request had been made after eight western aid workers, including two Americans, detained by the Taliban in Kabul were freed and then rescued by US troops last week.

"While we still had two American detainees and other foreigners detained in Afghanistan, we felt it was useful for (the Taliban) office to be there, to be open to offer the possibility of communication on the subject of our detainees should that be necessary," he told reporters.

"Given the developments of the past week -- the fact that the detainees are out -- at this point we don't really see any particular reason for that so-called embassy to stay open," Boucher said.

"We've been talking to the Pakistani government about that (but) the decision in the end is for them to make and we'll leave it to them."

Asked whether Washington wanted Taliban diplomats expelled from Pakistan as well, a senior State Department official replied: "Closing the embassy is the same as kicking out the people."

Until last week, when the detainees were released and rescued, US officials had tolerated the presence of the Taliban representatives in Islamabad over concerns for their welfare.

The eight had been detained in early August on charges of preaching Christianity and converting Afghan Muslims to an "abolished religion," a crime which carries the death penalty under the militia's radical brand of Islamic law.

Their trial had been interrupted by the US bombing which began on October 7 in retaliation for the Taliban's refusal to hand over Osama bin Laden who Washington blames for the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States.

Pakistan is the last country in the world to maintain formal diplomatic relations with the Taliban, the target of US military action over its harboring of bin Laden.

Boucher praised Pakistan's decision on Tuesday to close the two remaining Taliban consulates in its territory calling it a "welcome" move.

In doing so, though, the Pakistani government postponed a decision on the Taliban embassy in Islamabad.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar said Monday that Islamabad no longer recognised the Taliban government but had not severed diplomatic relations.

Sattar said Islamabad had not "de-recognized" the government in the absence of an alternative and legitimate authority.

The United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia severed ties with the Taliban in October.
 


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