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UN lifts sanctions on 5 former Taliban officials

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[January 27, 2010]  KABUL (AP) -- Five former Taliban officials have been removed from a U.N. sanctions list ahead of Thursday's key international conference in London that is expected to focus on a government plan to persuade militants to switch sides.

HardwareAs part of reconciliation efforts, President Hamid Karzai has been pressing for the removal of certain Taliban figures from the list, which imposes punitive measures such as a travel ban and an assets freeze.

The United Nations said Tuesday that the sanctions committee approved the removal of Wakil Ahmad Muttawakil, a former foreign minister and confidant of Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar, and four others.

The U.N. did not mention the reconciliation plan but said the decision was made Monday after a review of the list. Sanctions had been imposed on the five men in 2001.

Karzai has said Taliban who are not part of al-Qaida or other terrorist groups "are welcome to come back to their country, lay down arms and resume life."

He plans to seek international support for a new government reintegration plan at the London conference.

The other four removed from the list were the Taliban's deputy commerce minister, Faizl Mohammed Faizan; Abdul Hakim Monib, the deputy minister of frontier affairs who later renounced the Taliban and became a provincial governor; Mohammad Musa Hottak, the deputy planning minister who was later elected to parliament; and a former press officer, Shams-ul Safa Aminzai.

The effort to remove some Taliban figures from the list is one of the incentives being discussed as part of the reintegration plan, along with jobs and vocational training. Officials hope the multimillion-dollar initiative will succeed where past programs have failed. Skeptics, though, wonder whether significant numbers of militants will stop fighting when they believe they're winning.

Wahid Muzhda, a Kabul-based security analyst, said Wednesday the removal of the men from the list was not likely to persuade other Taliban militants to leave the fight. He said all five were relatively low-level or already had turned on the militant group.

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"These people are not fighters now and they weren't powerful commanders then," he said. "This won't have any effect on peace or stability. It won't give confidence to the Taliban."

Muttawakil, for example, is considered a relative moderate and has advised Karzai on negotiating with the insurgents. He surrendered to U.S. forces in 2003.

The U.N. Security Council imposed sanctions against the Taliban in November 1999 for refusing to send Osama bin Laden to stand trial on terrorism charges in connection with two 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Africa. The sanctions -- a travel ban, arms embargo and assets freeze -- were later extended to al-Qaida. In July 2005, the council extended the sanctions again to cover affiliates and splinter groups of al-Qaida and the Taliban.

Questions have been raised about the fairness of the list and the rights of those subject to punitive measures to argue their case for being removed. The sanctions committee is reviewing all individuals and entities on the list -- more than 480 -- which should be completed by June 30, 2010.

[Associated Press; By KIM GAMEL]

Associated Press writer Amir Shah contributed to this report.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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