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Pakistan Asks Taleban Diplomat to Cease Criticisms - 2001-11-07


Pakistan has asked the Taleban's only foreign envoy to stop criticizing "third countries" during his near-daily news conferences in Islamabad. The briefings have been a key source of information for journalists covering the U.S. strikes in Afghanistan. But no new briefings have been scheduled by the diplomat.

Pakistan's foreign ministry spokesman, Aziz Khan, said his office reminded Ambassador Abdul Salam Zaeef of the so-called "third country rule" during a meeting Tuesday. According to the Pakistani official, the rule bars foreign missions from publicly criticizing a third country.

Mr. Zaeef's near-daily briefings have repeatedly condemned the United States and the bombing of Afghanistan, a campaign he often called genocide. Following Tuesday's meeting with Pakistani officials, the envoy called off a scheduled briefing.

Mr. Khan, Pakistan's foreign ministry spokesman, said his office simply reminded the envoy of diplomatic procedure. He refused to elaborate. "I can't quote chapter and verse, but there was a need and that is it. Go back to his recorded press conferences and I am sure you will figure it out," he said.

Mr. Zaeef heads the Taleban's only remaining foreign mission.

His briefings have become spectacles, crammed by reporters and video cameras. Mr. Zaeef often used the venue to tell of reports of civilian casualties, saying the total stands at more than 1,500, a claim Washington says is grossly exaggerated.

Mr. Zaeef has also criticized Pakistan, which has been a key supporter of the U.S. campaign, despite its historic ties to the Taleban.

Last week, U.S. officials said they planned to step up efforts to fight what they called Taleban propaganda. Among other things, they announced plans to set up a coalition information center in Islamabad.

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