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Pakistan Restricts Taleban Diplomats, Closes Consulate in Karachi - 2001-11-08

Pakistan has imposed more constraints on Taleban diplomats in the country, ordering the closure of the Taleban consulate in Karachi. The move came just a day after Pakistan asked the Taleban ambassador in Islamabad to stop using his nearly daily news briefings to criticize the United States.

Pakistan's Foreign Ministry spokesman Aziz Khan would offer little more than confirmation of the order to close the Taleban consulate. "We have asked the Afghan embassy to withdraw the personnel from the Afghan consulate in Karachi. No further comment on it," he said.

He has said the Taleban embassy, as well as consulates in Quetta and Peshawar, will remain open.

Taleban ambassador Abdul Salam Zaeef was ordered earlier this week to stop criticizing the United States during his daily press briefings. Pakistan cited a diplomatic rule barring missions from criticizing a third country.

Ambassador Zaeef has frequently used his briefings to condemn the U.S. bombing campaign in Afghanistan. He recently denounced Pakistan as well for not opening its borders to a growing number of Afghan refugees fleeing the U.S. strikes.

U.S. diplomats visiting Islamabad in recent weeks have openly criticized the Taleban. Foreign ministry spokesman Khan says the third country rule applies to all missions in the country. But he also has said there is a difference.

"The criticism that comes is really with relation to the United Nations Security Council resolution where the international community has agreed and there is a coalition for a fight against terrorism and elements that are harboring the terrorism. Whatever criticism that is related to the action that is being taken under the Security Council resolutions is a valid criticism," he said.

Washington has often condemned Ambassador Zaeef's statements, and U.S. officials recently announced plans to set up an information center in Islamabad to combat what they call Taleban propaganda.

A U.S. embassy official in Islamabad told VOA discussions with Pakistani authorities are under way in an effort to open the center. He says Pakistan's government has not mentioned the so-called "third country rule" during those talks.