The United Nations said Tuesday it is considering creating separate terrorism blacklists for al-Qaida and the Taliban, a political gesture that could spur possible Afghan peace talks.
Peter Wittig, permanent representative of Germany to the United Nations and chairman of the U.N. committee overseeing the sanctions, said the panel will decide in about two weeks whether to divide the list.
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. Making two separate lists would symbolically delink the Taliban from al-Qaida, recognizing their different agendas.
"It would highlight the significance of the political efforts that are ongoing in Afghanistan," Wittig told a group of reporters at a briefing in the Afghan capital.
Al-Qaida is focused on worldwide jihad against the West and establishment of a religious state in the Muslim world, while Afghan Taliban militants have focused on their own country and have shown little interest in attacking targets outside Afghanistan.
"The links are there, but they don't justify putting them in the same basket," said Wittig, whose country favors the split. "There would be an element of Afghan ownership because there would be an obligation to consult with the Afghan government on requests concerning changes to the list. So they would get a more prominent role."
Some nations, however, are still undecided about whether to embrace the idea of splitting the list. All committee members must vote in favor for it to be approved. It's unclear, for instance, whether it will be approved by Russia, which has expressed reluctance in the past to approve requests to delist Taliban members.
Afghan authorities are talking to council members to persuade them to back the idea.
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 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 already has asked a U.N. panel to take about 50 Taliban figures off the sanctions list, which keeps them subject to an asset freeze and travel ban. The committee will rule on many of these requests next week.
Wittig said later at a news conference that he expected some Taliban members to be delisted by mid-June.
"The question is `Does the individual still pose a terrorist threat?' That's the criteria to delist an individual, but this of course is linked to the overall political situation," he said. "The Security Council and the members of the sanctions committee are aware that there is a political process going on."
Meanwhile, authorities said insurgents kidnapped and killed an Afghan provincial council chief from a region set to be handed over by NATO troops to local security forces in July.
Police found the body of Jawad Zhowka of the central province of Bamiyan on Tuesday along a major road running through neighboring Parwan province, said provincial Gov. Abdul Basir Salangi. Zhowka led the Bamiyan provincial council, which oversaw the government in the relatively peaceful region.
Insurgents kidnapped Zhowka on Friday as he was driving back from Kabul after flying from a meeting in western Afghanistan, Bamiyan council member Zainab Noori said.
Bamiyan province is one of seven areas NATO plans to hand over to Afghan security forces in July. NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said last month that plans to transfer control remained on course, despite recent bombings and assaults by insurgents in the areas.
In a separate attack, a roadside bomb detonated in Paktika province as a group of Afghan soldiers traveled by, killing two and wounding four others, the governor's office said. Authorities later led a raid against a group of suspected insurgents, killing four, the governor's office said.
Associated Press writers Jon Gambrell, Amir Shah and Massieh Neshat in Kabul contributed to this report.