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US to blacklist Haqqani network

The US prepares to designate the Pakistani based network as a terrorist group.

This undated handout picture received 20 October 2007 shows a poster which is soon to be put up in eastern Afghanistan, shows wanted militant Siraj Haqqani who the US military says is trying to rival Mullah Mohammad Omar for the Taliban leadership . The US-led coalition has issued a 200,000-USD reward for the arrest of Haqqani as part of a Most wanted compaign, which will see posters of about 12 wanted militants put up in the east in the coming weeks. Picture: AFP.

WASHINGTON - The United States is preparing to designate the Pakistan-based Haqqani network as a terrorist group as early as Friday, the New York Times said on its website.

The Haqqanis, a Pashtun tribe with strongholds in south-eastern Afghanistan and across the border in Pakistan, have been blamed for an attack on the US Embassy in Kabul and other high-profile assaults in Afghanistan.

In June, Defence Secretary Leon Panetta said the United States was reaching the limits of its patience with Pakistan because of the safe havens that groups like the Haqqanis found there.

Designation by the State Department as a Foreign Terrorist Organization would bring sanctions such as criminal penalties for anyone providing material support to the group and seizure of any assets in the United States.

The Obama administration is facing a congressional deadline this weekend to determine whether the network met the criteria for such designation.

The New York Times said senior officials who argued against blacklisting the group were concerned it could further damage relations with Pakistan and possibly jeopardize the fate of US Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl who is being held by the militants.

But State Department and military officials who argued for the designation believed it would help curtail the group's fund-raising activities in countries like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and pressure Pakistan to act against the militants, the newspaper said.

"This shows that we are using everything we can to put the squeeze on these guys," one administration official involved in the process told the New York Times on condition of anonymity. The newspaper said four administration officials late Thursday said the government was going ahead with the designation.

Asked for comment on the New York Times story, a senior State Department official said: "As she noted earlier this week, the Secretary expects to send her report on the Haqqani network to Congress today, 11 September, and announce her decision regarding designation of the Haqqani network."

Clinton was wrapping up an Asia-Pacific trip and was headed to the APEC summit in Vladivostok in Russia.

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