The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously Friday to treat al-Qaida and the Taliban separately when it comes to U.N. sanctions, a move aimed at supporting the Afghan government's reconciliation efforts and more effectively fighting global terrorism.
The council's adoption of two resolutions symbolically severs al-Qaida and the Taliban, which were previously tied in the same U.N. sanctions regime, and recognizes their different agendas.
While Al-Qaida is focused on worldwide jihad against the West and establishment of a religious state in the Muslim world, Taliban militants have focused on their own country and have shown little interest in attacking targets abroad.
U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice said in a statement that the council had taken "important steps" to respond to the evolving and distinct threats posed by al-Qaida and the Taliban.
"The United States believes that the new sanctions regime for Afghanistan will serve as an important tool to promote reconciliation, while isolating extremists," she said. It should also send "a clear message to the Taliban that there is a future for those who separate from al-Qaida."
At the same time, Rice said, al-Qaida and its associates will now be the focus of a separate, strengthened sanctions regime and will continue to face tough and comprehensive sanctions.
"The United States remains committed to disrupting, dismantling and defeating al-Qaida using every weapon at our disposal," she stressed.
The Security Council imposed sanctions against the Taliban in November 1999 for refusing to send Osama bin Laden to the United States or a third country for trial on terrorism charges in connection with the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.
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.
Afghan President Hamid 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. The Taliban have long demanded removal from the sanctions list to help promote reconciliation.
The U.S. and Afghan governments have said that they are willing to reconcile with Taliban members who renounce violence, embrace the Afghan constitution and sever ties with al-Qaida.
The current U.N. sanctions list for both al-Qaida and the Taliban includes about 450 people, entities and organizations, including roughly 140 with links to the Taliban.
The Afghan government has asked a U.N. panel to take about 50 Taliban figures off the sanctions list. The sanctions committee was expected to rule on the requests this week, but diplomats said the council extended the deadline until July 15 to give delegations more time to consider the information provided by the Afghan government in support of the delisting requests.