Saudi Arabia severs ties with Afghanistan’s Taliban
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) – Saudi Arabia cut all ties with Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban militia on Tuesday, saying its leaders were defaming Islam by harboring and supporting terrorists.
The move by one of the most influential nations in the Islamic world leaves Pakistan as the only country to maintain diplomatic relations with the hard-line Islamic Taliban, and hands the United States a major success in its effort to isolate the Taliban over their refusal to surrender Osama bin Laden.
Bin Laden, a Saudi exile and the United States’ chief suspect in the Sept. 11 terror attacks on New York and the Pentagon, lives in Afghanistan.
Without identifying bin Laden by name, the Saudi government accused the Taliban government of continuing ”to use its land to harbor, arm and encourage those criminals in carrying out terrorist attacks which horrify those who live in peace and the innocent, and spread terror and destruction in the world.”
The attacks are ”defaming Islam and defaming Muslims’ reputation in the world,” the government said, in a statement carried by the kingdom’s official Saudi news agency.
Since seizing power in 1996, the Taliban have made their land ”a center for attracting, training and recruiting a number of gullible men from different lands, especially citizens of the kingdom, in order to carry out criminal acts that violate all faiths and creeds,” the statement said.
It accused the Taliban of resisting ”handing over those criminals to justice.”
In Riyadh, acting Taliban charge d’affaires Sayed Matiullah could not be reached for comment. Embassy staffer Abu Mohammed said the embassy was ”still operating” and would not comment on whether diplomats were preparing to leave Saudi Arabia.
Matiullah had told The Associated Press just a few days earlier that he had good relations with the Saudi government. He said about 100,000 Afghan passport holders were in the kingdom, most working as taxi drivers or construction laborers.
Saudi Arabia insisted it would stand by the Afghan people themselves, and work for whatever would achieve security and prosperity for Afghans.
Only three nations recognized the Taliban when they seized control in Afghanistan – Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia.
Under intense U.S. lobbying, the Emirates shut the Taliban Embassy in Dubai on Saturday and announced it was severing diplomatic relations.
Pakistan withdrew its last diplomats from Kabul, the Afghan capital, over the weekend.
Pakistan has agreed to support the U.S. military campaign against bin Laden and his Taliban allies. However, it has said it will continue relations with Afghanistan, describing the Taliban Embassy in Islamabad as the world’s ”window” for the Taliban.
Iraq, though critical of the United States, has made no effort to seek relations with the Taliban. Iraq’s ruling Baathist Party is mostly secular, and the Taliban’s isolation means they have little to offer Saddam Hussein in terms of support in his disputes with the West.
The son of a prominent Saudi businessman, bin Laden was stripped of his Saudi citizenship for his relentless criticism of Riyadh’s ties with Washington. Bin Laden objects strongly to the presence of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia – home to Islam’s holiest sites – following the Gulf War.
Bin Laden sought refuge in exile first in Sudan, and then in Afghanistan.
Saudi Arabia cut back diplomatic ties with the Taliban in 1998, expelling the Afghan charge d’affaires in Riyadh and recalling its representative from Kabul.
The Afghan charge d’affaires in Riyadh said at the time that the Saudi move came because his country was harboring bin Laden. Taliban diplomats were later allowed to return, but the Saudi Arabian government never explained why.
Saudi officials have ruled out allowing the United States to use the kingdom’s air bases for any strikes in response to the Sept. 11 attacks
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