South Asia

Afghanistan: UN drops Taliban names from sanctions list

Taliban fighters peacefully surrender their arms during a meeting with Afghan government officials as part of the government's peace and reintegration process, 11 April 2011
Image caption Some Taliban fighters have handed in their weapons as part of the reconciliation process

Fourteen former Afghan Taliban leaders have been removed from an international blacklist by the UN Security Council.

President Hamid Karzai's government had asked the UN sanctions committee to drop the names from the list.

They include four members of the High Peace Council set up last year to pave the way for talks with the Taliban.

The Security Council said the delisting of the names sent out a strong signal of support for the Afghan government's reconciliation efforts.

The sanctions were imposed in 1999, when the Taliban were in power, and were expanded after the 9/11 attacks on the US.

"The international community recognises efforts made by members of the High Peace Council to work toward peace, stability and reconciliation," Germany's UN ambassador Peter Wittig, who chairs the sanctions committee, said in a statement.

"All Afghans are encouraged to join these efforts. The message is clear: Engaging for peace pays off," he said.

But according to the Associated Press news agency, the Afghan government had wanted 50 names dropped from the blacklist.

It had provided extensive documentation to show they had reintegrated into society, but the committee refused to remove them from the list, the agency says.

Following Friday's decision, 123 names remain on the Taliban sanctions list that imposes travel bans and asset freezes.

Analysts say the US and Nato acknowledge that they cannot withdraw successfully from Afghanistan, or effect a transition to Afghan forces by 2014, without an end to the war and some kind of political settlement between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

US President Barack Obama has said 10,000 US troops will pull out this year, with another 23,000 leaving by the end of September 2012.

Civilian and military casualties are at levels not seen for a decade in Afghanistan - last year more than 2,400 civilians died.

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