USIS Washington 

14 April 1999


(Taliban should reconsider joining peace talks) (840)
By William B. Reinckens
USIA Staff Writer

Washington -- "We regret that Pakistan has tested," Assistant
Secretary of State Karl Inderfurth said April 14, confirming that
Pakistan has successfully test fired its 1,500 kilometer Ghauri
ballistic missile.

At a Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee hearing on Afghanistan,
Inderfurth said, "We hoped that Pakistan would not respond in a
tit-for-tat fashion to the Indian missile test on Sunday. Both sides
have said they want to meet their security requirements at the lowest
possible levels. We would like to see concrete steps by both countries
that they intend to do so."

Inderfurth added, "we believe that India has a special responsibility
in this regard. Clearly, Pakistan is responding to Indian actions,
including the missile test and earlier nuclear tests. Perhaps Pakistan
would also respond to positive steps by India."

He noted the international opposition to India and Pakistan's
underground nuclear tests last summer and to the recent missile tests.
However, he said that both India and Pakistan used a mutually agreed
upon notification process prior to launch which had been worked out by
both countries' prime ministers at the Lahore Summit in February.

Inderfurth said he agreed with the view expressed by Senator Sam
Brownback (Republican, Kansas), one of the sponsors of the legislation
that lifted some economic sanctions against both countries after the
nuclear tests last summer, that the recent missile tests cause people
in the U.S. government concern about regional stability.

"We are hopeful that they will hear the concerns of the international
community," Inderfurth said.

Turning to the Afghan peace process, Inderfurth rejected any
suggestion that the United States offered help to the Taliban. "There
have been no arms, no training, or even quiet encouragement to the
Taliban by anyone at the State Department. Only condemnation," he
asserted, referring to the horrendous practices toward women and girls
and against the Hazaras, Shia Muslims, in the northern part of the
country by the Taliban government since it came to power in
Afghanistan 18 months ago.

He also cited involvement by the Taliban and other Afghan groups in
the lucrative illegal opium trade, whose cash payments go to the
purchase of armaments to continue the civil war. "The Afghan drug
trade is felt in Western Europe but is also having an impact on
surrounding countries," Inderfurth said, noting that Pakistan today
has 3 million narcotics addicts.

Inderfurth also mentioned the Taliban's support to terrorist Osama bin
Laden, who is wanted in connection with the bombings last August of
the U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

"Bin Laden and others have taken advantage of the Afghan conflict to
use that country as a training ground, base, and safe-haven," said
Inderfurth. "We have called upon all factions to expel terrorists from
their territory and to close their facilities." He also said that Bin
Laden is still involved in planning terrorist acts against Americans.

"If the Taliban do not expel Bin Laden and continue to harbor
terrorists, the international community will soon come to see them in
the same light and respond accordingly," Inderfurth said. He said the
United States is "comfortable" with the evidence it has regarding Bin
Laden's involvement in the embassy bombings.

Inderfurth pointed out that an article in the April 13 New York Times
by Tim Weiner, "U.S. Hard Put to Find Proof Bin Laden Directed
Attacks," "had a number of serious problems" regarding the facts of
Bin Laden's prosecution by the United States.

Inderfurth said that on April 10 the Taliban closed the door to
further UN-sponsored negotiations with their Afghan opponents. "It is
our view that the Taliban should reconsider their decision," he said,
noting that United Nations Special Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi was
instrumental over the past year in bringing both sides together and
that he and Brahimi are scheduled to meet in Washington April 16 to
discuss the situation in Afghanistan.

"We too are disappointed because over the past several weeks ground
work had been laid to advance the prospects for a political
settlement," Inderfurth said. He also noted that in recent
conversations in Moscow, there is a common view held by both the
United States and Russia that the Afghanistan situation has to be
resolved politically and not militarily.

"We believe that Pakistan and Iran can play a special role in bringing
peace to the region," Inderfurth said, because they are the countries
most affected by the war inside Afghanistan. "We believe that
Pakistan, which has provided the Taliban with diplomatic, material and
other support for several years, can do more than it has done in this
regard, and we urge it to do so," he said.

"Recent Taliban statements suggest that another round of conflict is
the most likely eventuality," Inderfurth said. "The Taliban seem to be
readying their fighters for an all-out blitz on the battlefield."