UAE cuts ties with Afghanistan's Taliban
By Sami Aboudi
DUBAI, Sept 22 (Reuters) - The United Arab Emirates (UAE) cut ties with the Taliban on Saturday, giving a diplomatic boost to U.S. efforts to press Afghanistan's rulers to surrender Osama bin Laden over deadly attacks in the United States last week.
The UAE gave Taliban embassy staff 24 hours to leave the Gulf Arab state, the official WAM news agency said. "The government of the United Arab Emirates has decided to cut diplomatic relations with the government of Taliban in the republic of Afghanistan," WAM quoted an official source at the foreign ministry as saying. The official said the decision was effective from Saturday.
The UAE is one of only three countries that recognise the militant Taliban as Afghanistan's government.
UAE Foreign Ministry undersecretary Saif Said bin Saed summoned the Taliban charge d'affaires in Abu Dhabi to give him and embassy staff notice to quit the country, WAM reported.
WAM said two diplomats, including charge d'affaires Aziz al-Rahman, and several administrators have been running Afghanistan's embassy in the capital Abu Dhabi.
Embassy officials were not immediately available for comment, but an employee who answered the telephone at the mission said he had heard nothing about the report.
The move strips the Taliban of one of its few friends as it braces for possible U.S. military reprisals.
WAM said the UAE, where some 100,000 Afghan nationals live and work, decided to cut ties after failing to persuade the Taliban government to hand over bin Laden for what it called a fair international trial.
"The UAE believes that it is impossible under such circumstances to maintain diplomatic relations with a government that refuses to heed the clear will of the international community represented in the United Nations Security Council," the official said.
The UAE, with Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, in 1997 recognised the Taliban government, which controls most of Afghanistan. The UAE in 1999 downgraded relations with the Taliban after the U.N. Security Council imposed sanctions on the movement for refusing to hand over bin Laden, who was also blamed for the 1998 attacks on two U.S. missions in Africa.
Saudi Arabia also froze ties with the Taliban in 1998 over its refusal to hand over bin Laden, who had been stripped of his Saudi citizenship for activities against the royal family. Saudi political commentators say the kingdom was following Pakistan's lead when it recognised the Taliban government.
"The kingdom recognised the Taliban for the sake of its good ties with Pakistan. Diplomatic relations with Taliban ended due to several factors, the most prominent being that the Taliban opened the way for bin Laden," said Abdul-Aziz al-Muhana, a Saudi author and political commentator.
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