Afghan Talks Resume, Taliban Drug Trade Connection Reported

Peace talks between Afghanistan’s fundamentalist Taliban militia and northern opposition groups resumed today, with no mention of the Taliban’s violations of women’s human rights. Talks had stalled Monday when the Taliban and opposition groups disagreed on qualifications for Islamic scholars, or ulema, who will work on a peace commission that will govern Afghanistan. Taliban officials demanded that ulema must have graduated from a recognized Islamic seminary, while opposition groups pushed for allowing scholars and tribal leaders onto the commission.

The Assistant Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Conference Ibrahim Saleh Bakr told reporters that the two sides have agreed not to veto any of the proposed delegates. The Organization of Islamic Conference and the U.N. are co-sponsoring the talks, which were first brokered by U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Bill Richardson.

Taliban officials are funding their war with revenue received from one of the largest opium and heroin production trades in the world, according to the UK’s ITN news. More than 95 percent of Britain’s heroin comes from Afghanistan or Pakistan. ITN reporters were shown permits obtained from the Taliban which allowed drug traffickers to move in and out of the Afghan border.

U.S. government narcotics experts met with Taliban officials last week to discuss poppy cultivation in Afghanistan. Poppies grown by Afghan farmers in 1997 produced more than 2,800 tons of opium, which can produce 280 tons of pure heroin.

The fundamentalist Taliban militia gained control of Kabul, the capital city of Afghanistan, in September 1996. Since they gained control, the Taliban has issued decrees prohibiting women from leaving their homes unless accompanied by a husband, brother or son, forbidding girls from obtaining an education and denying women adequate access to healthcare. The U.N. has refused to grant recognition of the Taliban as the official ruling power in Afghanistan until women’s human rights are restored.

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ITN, Reuters, AP - April 29, 1998

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