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UN: Taliban Want to Address Assembly   09/22 06:16


   UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- Who should represent Afghanistan at the United 
Nations this month? It's a complex question with plenty of political 

   The Taliban, the country's new rulers for a matter of weeks, are challenging 
the credentials of their country's former U.N. ambassador and want to speak at 
the General Assembly's high-level meeting of world leaders this week, the 
international body says.

   The question now facing U.N. officials comes just over a month after the 
Taliban, ejected from Afghanistan by the United States and its allies after 
9/11, swept back into power as U.S. forces prepared to withdraw from the 
country at the end of August. The Taliban stunned the world by taking territory 
with surprising speed and little resistance from the U.S.-trained Afghan 
military. The Western-backed government collapsed on Aug. 15.

   U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Secretary-General Antonio Guterres 
received a communication on Sept. 15 from the currently accredited Afghan 
Ambassador, Ghulam Isaczai, with the list of Afghanistan's delegation for the 
assembly's 76th annual session.

   Five days later, Guterres received another communication with the letterhead 
"Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, Ministry of Foreign Affairs," signed by "Ameer 
Khan Muttaqi" as "Minister of Foreign Affairs," requesting to participate in 
the U.N. gathering of world leaders.

   Muttaqi said in the letter that former Afghan president Ashraf Ghani was 
"ousted" as of Aug. 15 and that countries across the world "no longer recognize 
him as president," and therefore Isaczai no longer represents Afghanistan, 
Dujarric said.

   The Taliban said it was nominating a new U.N. permanent representative, 
Mohammad Suhail Shaheen, the U.N. spokesman said. He has been a spokesman for 
the Taliban during peace negotiations in Qatar.

   Senior U.S. State Department officials said they were aware of the Taliban's 
request -- the United States is a member of the U.N. credentials committee -- 
but they would not predict how that panel might rule. However, one of the 
officials said the committee "would take some time to deliberate," suggesting 
the Taliban's envoy would not be able to speak at the General Assembly at this 
session at least during the high-level leaders' week.

   In cases of disputes over seats at the United Nations, the General 
Assembly's nine-member credentials committee must meet to make a decision. Both 
letters have been sent to the committee after consultations with General 
Assembly President Abdulla Shahid's office. The committee's members are the 
United States, Russia, China, Bahama, Bhutan, Chile, Namibia, Sierra Leone and 

   Afghanistan is scheduled to give the last speech on the final day of the 
high-level meeting on Sept. 27. It wasn't clear who would speak if the 
committee met and the Taliban were given Afghanistan's seat.

   When the Taliban last ruled from 1996 to 2001, the U.N. refused to recognize 
their government and instead gave Afghanistan's seat to the previous, 
warlord-dominated government of President Burhanuddin Rabbani, who eventually 
was killed by a suicide bomber in 2011. It was Rabbani's government that 
brought Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of 9/11, to Afghanistan from Sudan in 

   The Taliban have said they want international recognition and financial help 
to rebuild the war-battered country. But the makeup of the new Taliban 
government poses a dilemma for the United Nations. Several of the interim 
ministers are on the U.N.'s so-called blacklist of international terrorists and 
funders of terrorism.

   Credentials committee members could also use Taliban recognition as leverage 
to press for a more inclusive government that guarantees human rights, 
especially for girls who were barred from going to school during their previous 
rule, and women who weren't able to work.

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