U.S. expects Afghan arms embargo to pass Tuesday
By Jonathan Wright
WASHINGTON, Dec 15 (Reuters) - The United States expects the U.N. Security Council to approve an arms embargo and other sanctions against the Taliban rulers of Afghanistan next Tuesday, a U.S. official said on Friday.
A draft resolution will go to senior representatives of Security Council member states on Monday for final consultations with their capitals, said the senior State Department official, who asked not to be named,
"We are in the final stages of getting the text right with some legal questions which some capitals have raised. If all goes well, it will be adopted on the 19th by the council, which then will bring it into force on Jan. 19," the official added.
The resolution, which again demands that the Taliban expel Saudi-born Islamist Osama bin Laden, may not win unanimous approval by all 15 Security Council members but in preliminary consultations it has won broad support, he said.
"We would hope it would be unanimous. I can't say for sure whether or not there will be any abstentions but it looks like there may be one or two. It's quite possible that China will abstain but we're just trying to work it out," he said.
The resolution, which has strong Russian backing, has been under discussion for months while the Islamist fundamentalist Taliban refuse to comply with a 1999 resolution seeking the expulsion of bin Laden.
A U.S. court has indicted bin Laden on charges of organizing the bomb attacks on the U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam in 1998, which killed more than 200 people.
The Taliban say he is a guest in their country and they have not seen any evidence that he is guilty.
The next resolution adds the new demands that the Taliban "cease providing training and support of international terrorists" and "close all terrorist camps in Afghanistan within 30 days," according to a text released in Washington.
The new sanctions include the arms embargo, which does not affect the Taliban's enemies in the Northern Alliance, a freeze on the assets of Osama bin Laden and a call on U.N. members to close the Taliban's few offices abroad.
The resolution would also ask members to restrict travel by Taliban leaders, ban all non-humanitarian flights into or out of Afghanistan and ban the export to Afghanistan of acetic anhydride, a precursor used in making heroin.
Asked how effective the arms embargo would be, a U.S. official said it would be difficult to enforce because of Afghanistan's long and porous borders.
"We are under no illusions that simply by adopting this resolution the arms spigot will be turned off, but it will have an effect, increasingly so over time," he said.
The freeze on bin Laden's assets would also be hard to enforce because he does not hold most of his wealth in his own name. U.S. officials have said that bin Laden, who comes from a family of wealthy contractors, has about $300 million.
"What this will do is make it more difficult for him to move assets and in that sense it will just complicate the conduct of his business -- and that is exactly what we are trying to do," one U.S. official said.
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