France makes nice with Taliban

| Thu Sep. 21, 2000 2:00 AM EDT

In a foreign-policy shift that is not likely to earn any brownie points with the West, the French government recently met with officials from Afghanistan's notoriously violent and oppressive ruling body, the Taliban Islamic militia, according to STRATFOR.

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It seems that France, which is heavily invested in the oil and gas industries in South Asia, wants to profit from the hot global market for oil and natural gas, and the civil war in Afghanistan between the Taliban and its fragmented foes has made construction of a crucial pipeline in the region difficult. France may be trying to facilitate peace talks between the warring Afghan factions in order to expedite the pipeline, according to STRATFOR's analysts. Russia, which also has oil interests in the region, may soon follow suit.

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While France has never officially recognized the Taliban, the recent meeting could strengthen the militia's claim as a legitimate body, and may signal that France is preparing to open diplomatic relations with the Taliban. Only three countries -- Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates -- recognize the extremely religious, extremely sexist Taliban as a legitimate government.

Yet again, the global economy trumps the global conscience.