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Aziz HaniffaIndia Abroad Correspondent in Washington
The United States condemned on Tuesday the decree by the Taleban regime in Afghanistan that all Hindus in that country wear a two-metre yellow cloth to identify themselves and follow the Islamic Shariat code, a move reminiscent of the Nazis' treatment of the Jews in Germany.
Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, who met members of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans, promised to exert pressure on Pakistan to use its influence with the Taleban to mend their "despicable ways".
Armitage acknowledged that the extremist group's latest action targeting Hindus in Afghanistan was "horrible".
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said, "We want to make quite clear that forcing social groups to wear distinctive clothing or identifying marks stigmatizes and isolates those groups and can never, never, be justified."
He said, "This reported edict is only the latest in a long list of outrageous oppressions that have been inflicted by the Taleban authorities in Afghanistan and on the people of Afghanistan."
Boucher said, "These kinds of strictures only add to the suffering of people who have borne 23 years of war and natural catastrophe."
He asserted that "we remain committed to bringing the Taleban and other factions into compliance with international norms of behaviour on all human rights issues, and those norms would certainly preclude any steps such as these."
Boucher noted that the US has "raised the issue of human rights repeatedly with the Taleban authorities and we are working with other countries and with the United Nations to bring about change."
Armitage, who briefed members of the India caucus on his recent visit to India, also agreed wholeheartedly with the consensus among the lawmakers that the latest act of the Taleban was "despicable and horrible", and has to be condemned in the strongest possible terms.
Sources said he also indicated that the Bush administration would push the Pakistanis hard "on the Taleban" and urge Islamabad to use whatever influence it has to get this group to eschew such human rights violations.
According to the sources who were present at the meeting, Armitage's remarks implied that the previous US administration had not pushed the Pakistanis hard enough on the subject and President George W Bush would not stand for Islamabad's courtship with the Taleban or have any qualms reminding Pakistan of it.
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