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Central Asia/Russia

US policy on Taliban influenced by oil - authors
By Julio Godoy

PARIS - Under the influence of United States oil companies, the government of President George W Bush initially blocked intelligence agencies' investigations on terrorism while it bargained with the Taliban on the delivery of Osama bin Laden in exchange for political recognition and economic aid, two French intelligence analysts claim.

In the book Bin Laden, la verite interdite (Bin Laden, the forbidden truth), that was released recently, the authors, Jean-Charles Brisard and Guillaume Dasquie, reveal that the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) deputy director John O'Neill resigned in July in protest over the obstruction.

The authors claim that O'Neill told them that "the main obstacles to investigate Islamic terrorism were US oil corporate interests and the role played by Saudi Arabia in it". The two claim that the US government's main objective in Afghanistan was to consolidate the position of the Taliban regime to obtain access to the oil and gas reserves in Central Asia.

They affirm that until August, the US government saw the Taliban regime "as a source of stability in Central Asia that would enable the construction of an oil pipeline across Central Asia" from the rich oilfields in Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan, through Afghanistan and Pakistan, to the Indian Ocean. Until now, says the book, "the oil and gas reserves of Central Asia have been controlled by Russia. The Bush government wanted to change all that."

But, confronted with Taliban's refusal to accept US conditions, "this rationale of energy security changed into a military one", the authors claim.

"At one moment during the negotiations, the US representatives told the Taliban, 'either you accept our offer of a carpet of gold, or we bury you under a carpet of bombs,'" Brisard said in an interview in Paris.

According to the book, the Bush administratino began to negotiate with the Taliban immediately after coming into power in February. US and Taliban diplomatic representatives met several times in Washington, Berlin and Islamabad.

To polish their image in the United States, the Taliban even employed a US expert on public relations, Laila Helms. The authors claim that Helms is also an expert in the works of US intelligence organizations, for her uncle, Richard Helms, is a former director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

The last meeting between US and Taliban representatives took place in August, five weeks before the attacks on New York and Washington, the analysts maintain. On that occasion, Christina Rocca, in charge of Central Asian affairs for the US government, met the Taliban ambassador to Pakistan in Islamabad.

Brisard and Dasquie have long experience in intelligence analysis. Brisard was until the late 1990s director of economic analysis and strategy for Vivendi, a French company. He also worked for French secret services, and wrote for them in 1997 a report on the now famous Al-Qaeda network, headed by bin Laden.

Dasquie is an investigative journalist and publisher of Intelligence Online, a respected newsletter on diplomacy, economic analysis and strategy, available through the Internet.

Brisard and Dasquie draw a portrait of the closest aides to Bush, linking them to the oil business. Bush's family has a strong oil background, as do some of his top aides. From Vice President Dick Cheney, through the director of the National Security Council Condoleezza Rice, to the ministers of commerce and energy, Donald Evans and Stanley Abraham, all have for long worked for US oil companies.

Cheney was until the end of last year president of Halliburton, a company that provides services for oil industry; Rice was between 1991 and 2000 manager for Chevron; Evans and Abraham worked for Tom Brown, another oil giant.

Besides the secret negotiations held between Washington and Kabul and the importance of the oil industry, the book takes issue with the role played by Saudi Arabia in fostering Islamic fundamentalism, in the personality of bin Laden, and with the networks that the Saudi dissident built to finance his activities.

Brisard and Dasquie contend that the US government's claim that it had been prosecuting bin Laden since 1998. "Actually," Dasquie says, "the first state to officially prosecute bin Laden was Libya, on the charges of terrorism."

"Bin Laden wanted to settle in Libya in the early 1990s, but was hindered by the government of Muammar Gaddafi," Dasquie claims. "Enraged by Libya's refusal, bin Laden organized attacks inside Libya, including assassination attempts against Gaddafi."

Dasquie singles out one group, the Islamic Fighting Group (IFG), reputedly the most powerful Libyan dissident organization, based in London, and directly linked with bin Laden. "Gaddafi even demanded Western police institutions, such as Interpol, to pursue the IFG and bin Laden, but never obtained cooperation," Dasquie says. "Until today, members of IFG openly live in London."

The book confirms earlier reports that the US government worked closely with the United Nations during the negotiations with the Taliban. "Several meetings took place this year, under the arbitration of Francesc Vendrell, personal representative of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, to discuss the situation in Afghanistan," says the book. "Representatives of the US government and Russia, and the six countries that border with Afghanistan were present at these meetings," it says. "Sometimes, representatives of the Taliban also sat around the table."

These meetings, also called Six plus 2, because of the number of states (six neighbors plus the US and Russia) involved, have been confirmed by Naif Naik, former Pakistani minister for foreign affairs.

In a French television news program two weeks ago, Naik said that during a Six plus 2 meeting in Berlin in July, the discussions turned around "the formation of a government of national unity. If the Taliban had accepted this coalition, they would have immediately received international economic aid. And the pipelines from Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan would have come," he added.

Naik also claimed that Tom Simons, the US representative at these meetings, openly threatened the Taliban and Pakistan. "Simons said, 'either the Taliban behave as they ought to, or Pakistan convinces them to do so, or we will use another option'. The words Simons used were 'a military operation'," Naik claimed.

(Inter Press Service)



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