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Late yesterday the Treasury Department signed a license authorizing the Federal Reserve to unblock Afghan government assets frozen in 1999 under Executive Order 13129. The license, signed by Richard Newcomb, Director of Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control, gives control of the assets to the new Afghan Interim Authority (AIA). The license will unblock approximately $193 million in gold and $24 million in other assets of the Afghan Central Bank held at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

The assets had been blocked under the 1999 Executive Order that froze all assets associated with the Taliban regime. The Taliban, who seized control of Kabul in 1996, were not recognized as the legitimate government of Afghanistan by the United States or the United Nations. The Secretary of State has certified that the AIA is the recognized legitimate authority to operate the account. This follows action by the Afghan Sanctions Committee of the United Nations Security Council, which on January 18 th removed the Afghan Central bank from its list of sanctioned parties.

"This is how the blocking system was designed to work," said Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill. "The blocked assets are held until a recognized regime is in place and the funds can be directed back to the legitimate holders. These funds will now be available to help stabilize the Afghan economy, strengthen the operations of the central bank, and shape a better future for the people of Afghanistan ."

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