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U.S. Initiates Trade Embargo Against bin Laden Supporters

By John Lancaster

President Clinton Tuesday banned all commercial and financial dealings between the United States and Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban, accusing the Taliban of continuing to provide refuge to Osama bin Laden, the wealthy Saudi exile suspected of ordering U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.

Clinton’s executive order freezes all Taliban assets in the United States, bars the import of products from Afghanistan and makes it illegal for U.S. companies to sell goods and services to the Taliban, whose militant Islamic fighters control about 85 percent of the mountainous, war-torn country.

But the order makes an exception for food and other humanitarian supplies, and a senior State Department official emphasized that the sanctions are “not aimed at the people of Afghanistan.”

U.S. officials said the measure is intended to put pressure on the Taliban to surrender bin Laden, who is accused of masterminding the Aug. 7 bombings in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya, that killed 12 Americans and nearly 300 Africans and wounded thousands more. Days after the attack, the United States launched cruise missiles at targets inside Afghanistan that officials described as bases used by bin Laden and his group of armed Islamic extremists, al Qaeda.

“The Taliban continues to provide safe haven to Osama bin Laden allowing operate from Taliban-controlled territory a network of terrorist training camps and to use Afghanistan as a base from which to sponsor terrorist operations against the United States,” Clinton said in a letter to Congress explaining his order, which was signed on Monday and went into effect at midnight Tuesday night.

Taliban officials reached Tuesday in New York, where the organization maintains a mission to the United Nations, reiterated the group’s statements that bin Laden has either left the country or gone into hiding.