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UN drops sanctions against 14 ex-Afghan Taliban
At Afghanistan's urging, sanctions committee drops 14 former Taliban from UN blacklist
By The Associated Press

UNITED NATIONS (AP) ' The U.N. committee that oversees the Taliban blacklist dropped 14 names on Friday at the Afghan government's urging, including several members of the peace council that President Hamid Karzai formed to find a political solution to the country's insurgency.

The Afghan government had asked the sanctions committee to drop up to 50 former Taliban leaders from its list, and provided extensive documentation aimed at showing they have since been reintegrated into society. Removing sanctions against former Afghan Taliban, including a travel ban and assets freeze, is seen as key to promoting dialogue.

"The Security Council and the international community support the efforts of the Afghan government to engage reconciled Taliban in a political dialogue in order to achieve peace and security in Afghanistan," said German Ambassador Peter Wittig, who chairs the Security Council committee that oversees those sanctions.

In dropping the 14 names, the committee recognized "efforts by members of the High Peace Council to work toward peace, stability and reconciliation," said Wittig. "The message is clear: engaging for peace pays off."

Another 123 names remain after Friday's "de-listing."

Those taken off the list included Arsala Rahmani, the Taliban's former deputy minister of higher education; Habibullah Fawzi, who once served as the Taliban's ambassador to Saudi Arabia; and Faqir Mohammad Khan, a former Taliban deputy minister, all of them are on Karzai's 70-member High Peace Council.

Sanctions were also dropped against Sayed Rahman Haqani, who had been a deputy minister of mines and industries in the Taliban regime and now works with the peace council.

The action follows the Security Council's recent decision to treat al-Qaida and the Taliban separately when it comes to U.N. sanctions. The move was designed to better support Afghan reconciliation efforts and fight global terrorism more effectively.

While Al-Qaida is focused on worldwide jihad against the West and establishment of a religious state in the Muslim world, Afghan Taliban militants have focused on their own country and have shown little interest in attacking targets abroad.

Karzai has been making peace overtures to members of the Taliban, which ruled Afghanistan for five years and sheltered al-Qaida before being driven out of power in the U.S.-led invasion in late 2001.

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