Afghanistan Sanctions Furor

Protesters angered by U.N. sanctions burned a U.N. office to the ground, set effigies of President Clinton ablaze, and scuffled with Taliban troops guarding the world body's buildings and equipment.

The United Nations accused the religious army of not doing enough to stop the violence, which has gone on daily since the U.N. decided to slap sanctions on the country over its refusal to turn over suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden.

Bin Laden, a Saudi exile who lives in Afghanistan, is accused of masterminding last year's twin U.S. embassy bombings in East Africa, killing 224 people.

"The Taliban provided guards and police to U.N. offices, but they proved powerless against such large crowds," said Erick de Mul, U.N. coordinator for Afghanistan, in a statement issued in neighboring Pakistan.

At demonstrations throughout Afghanistan, protesters have burned U.S. flags and effigies of Clinton, and stormed U.N. buildings.

In northwestern Farah province, a U.N. office was burned down, but no one was hurt. Other demonstrations have resulted in damaged buildings, vehicles and equipment, said de Mul.

On Monday in Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan, a mob tried to storm U.N. offices, breaking windows and causing minor damage. A fight between the protesters and Taliban soldiers resulted in minor injuries, according to doctors in Jalalabad.

U.N. offices were closed and U.N. workers confined to their homes on Monday.

The sanctions virtually cut whatever remaining links Afghanistan and its impoverished people had with the outside world.

They order the Taliban's overseas assets frozen and ban flights owned, leased or operated by the Taliban. Exemptions to the flight ban would be permitted for humanitarian reasons or to allow the Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca.

With the end of the international flights, all mail in or out of Afghanistan comes to a halt. The Taliban say the sanctions will effect people's ability to buy food and will hurt the poor the most.

Meanwhile, the Taliban used the occasion to allow music to return to the airwaves for the first time since they took control of the capital, Kabul, in 1996. The religious army's Radio Shariat played an anti-American tune that warned that Afghan's would get revenge, "even if it takes 100 years."

Under their strict brand of Islam, the Taliban consider most music against Islam.

De Mul is to meet with Taliban officials Tuesday in Kabul to seek security guarantees for an estimated 40 international U.N. workers in Afghanistan.

The sanctions have canceled the Taliban-run Ariana airline's only international flight, its service to the United Arab Emirates. Afghanistan receives much of its food, medicine and electronic goods from the United Arab Emirates.

Mohammed Daoud, an Ariana supervisor, expressed anger at the U.N. decision.

"First it was the Russians who came and we died to save our country, annow it is the United Nations and the United States who are on our head. Why?" Daoud asked. He called the sanctions a "cruel" epitaph to the million Afghans killed during the Russian occupation of their homeland.

Earlier this year the United States banned investment in and trade with the Taliban, barred Americans from using Ariana airlines and started seizing the airline's $500 million in U.S. assets.

Impoverished by 20 years of relentless war, Afghans say even limited sanctions will be backbreaking.

The Afghan currency, called the Afghani, weakened in anticipation of the sanctions, dropping from 43,000 Afghanis to the U.S. dollar to 51,000. That has driven the cost of food up--a blow for Afghans, most of whom do not have jobs and make very little money.

The Taliban say they won't turn over bin Laden because Afghan culture and tradition makes it impossible to hand over a guest to his enemies. They also argue they do not have an extradition treaty with the United States.

The Taliban have called the sanctions "unreasonable" and have urged other Muslim nations to ignore the sanctions. So far, none have responded.

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