Saudi Arabia severs ties with Afghanistan's Taliban

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The Independent Online

Saudi Arabia cut all ties with Afghanistan's Taliban government Tuesday, saying it was defaming Islam by harboring and supporting terrorists.

The move leaves Pakistan as the only nation in the world to maintain ties with the Taliban, and leaves Afghanistan's hard–line Islamic regime ever more isolated in its showdown with the United States over Osama bin Laden.

Bin Laden, a Saudi dissident and the United States' chief suspect in Sept. 11 terror attacks on New York and Washington, lives in exile in Afghanistan.

In a statement carried on the official Saudi news agency, the Saudi government said the Taliban "is continuing to use its land to harbor, arm and encourage those criminals who carry out terrorist attacks that frighten the innocent and spread horror and destruction in the world."

The attacks "defame Islam and defame Muslims' reputation in the world," the statement said.

Despite ending all relations with the Afghan government, the Saudi government said, it would continue to stand by the Afghan people.

Saudi Arabia will support "whatever is going to achieve security, stability and prosperity for the Muslim people," the statement said.

Only three nations recognized the Taliban when it seized control in Afghanistan in 1996 – Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia.

Under intense U.S. lobbying, the Emirates shut the Afghan Embassy in Dubai on Saturday, and announced it was severing diplomatic relations with the Taliban.

Pakistan withdrew its last diplomats from Kabul, the Afghan capital, over the weekend. The Pakistan government has said it will keep relations with Afghanistan, however, calling the Afghan Embassy in the Pakistani capital the "window" for the world with the Taliban.

The move by Mideast leader Saudi Arabia marks a major step forward for the United States in its effort to put pressure on and isolate the Taliban, which have refused to hand over bin Laden absent proof of his guilt in the Sept. 11 attacks.