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State Department 'Actively' Considers Terrorist Designation for Pakistani Taliban

The U.S. State Department said Tuesday that it is actively considering adding the Pakistani wing of the Taliban to its list of foreign terrorist organizations. A group of U.S. Senators said Tuesday they want legislation mandating such action after the Pakistani Taliban was implicated in a recent bombing attempt in New York's Times Square.

Officials here say the process of designating the Pakistani Taliban as a terrorist organization is underway and will be completed soon, and that there is no need for legislation on the issue.

The comments came after four U.S. Senators said they will introduce a bill requiring such action.

They acted a day after Pakistani-born U.S. citizen Faisal Shahzad said in a New York courtroom that he had received money and bomb-making training from the Pakistani Taliban for his car bombing attempt last month in New York's Times Square.

Shahzad, calling himself a "Muslim soldier," pleaded guilty to 10 counts of terrorism and various weapons charges after leaving a bomb that failed to detonate at the crowded tourist site May 1.

The senators said they had made a written appeal to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to put the group on the U.S. blacklist several weeks ago.

They said that in the wake of the guilty plea, it is time to take the next step to confront the organization that "aided and abetted" Shahzad.

At a news briefing, State Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley said officials are compiling the evidence for a designation under established procedures and that there is no need for legislation.

"Anytime you go through this process, that designation can be open to legal challenge," he said. "So we are doing due diligence as you would expect. This is not something we are ignoring. We are actively considering this, as we pledged months ago. We would expect to conclude this process relatively soon. And we would not see any legislative remedy here as being necessary."

There are 45 groups on the State Department's list of foreign terrorist organizations.

The designation freezes U.S. assets the groups might have, imposes travel and financial sanctions on its members and makes it a crime to provide material support to them.

Democratic Senator Charles Schumer of New York, a backer of the proposed legislation, says the Pakistani Taliban poses an "existential threat" to U.S. soldiers abroad and citizens at home, and that it is time to use all available tools against them.

The other Senate sponsors of the pending bill are Democrats Kirsten Gillibrand, also of New York, and Robert Menendez and Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey.