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Diplomats Wait For Afghan Visas - 2001-08-09


Afghanistan's ruling Taleban Islamic movement continue to deny visas to Western diplomats seeking to visit foreign aid workers detained for allegedly preaching Christianity.

Diplomats from the United States, Australia and Germany say a charter flight that they had hoped to fly into Afghanistan on Friday has now been canceled and they will have to wait until after the Islamic weekend, to continue their efforts to obtain visas.

Taleban officials say their government will not refuse entry permits to the diplomats, but they have not indicated when the visas will be issued. The Taleban says it wants to discuses the issue with the diplomats and show them evidence that the detainees were involved in preaching Christianity.

Those arrested include two Americans, two Australians and four Germans along with 16 local workers of a German-based aid agency, Shelter Now. The Taleban has closed down offices of the agency and a school it was running.

The Taleban has accused the aid workers of trying to convert Afghan Muslims to Christianity. It says the fate of those detained will be determined by Islamic laws, which the Taleban says prescribes the death penalty for any Afghan Muslim converting to any other religion.

Meanwhile, Islamic groups in Pakistan Thursday expressed support for the Taleban decision to arrest the foreign aid workers, saying Western aid agencies active in Pakistan also indulge in such missionary work. They made the statement at a conference in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, to protest U.N. sanctions against the Taleban. A resolution passed by the pro-Taleban conference warns the United Nations that monitors sent to Pakistan to observe the sanctions will be treated as enemies.

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