March 27, 2019 / 7:55 PM / 3 months ago

U.S. steps up push for U.N. to blacklist JeM leader Masood Azhar

Maulana Masood Azhar, head of Pakistan's militant Jaish-e-Mohammad party, attends a pro-Taliban conference organised by the Afghan Defence Council in Islamabad August 26, 2001. MK/JD/File Photo

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United States, Britain and France stepped up a push for the United Nations Security Council to blacklist the head of Pakistan-based militant group Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) on Wednesday after China prevented an earlier move two weeks ago.

The United States circulated a resolution - drafted with British and French support - to the 15-member council that would designate JeM leader Masood Azhar, subjecting him to an arms embargo, travel ban and asset freeze, diplomats said.

JeM said it was responsible for a Feb. 14 attack that killed at least 40 Indian paramilitary police, making it the deadliest in Kashmir during a 30-year-long insurgency, increased tensions between Pakistan and India. The nuclear-armed neighbours both said they had shot down each other’s fighter jets last month.

The United States, Britain and France initially asked the Security Council’s Islamic State and al Qaeda sanctions committee, which operates by consensus, to blacklist Azhar. However, China prevented the move.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said that China had conducted a “comprehensive and thorough evaluation” but still needed more time to consider the proposal. China had previously prevented the committee from sanctioning Azhar in 2016 and 2017.

Instead of consensus, a resolution only needs nine votes in favour and no vetoes by China, Russia, the United States, France or Britain to pass. It was not immediately clear when the draft resolution to designate Azhar could be put to a vote.

The Chinese mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the draft text.

JeM is a primarily anti-India group that forged ties with al Qaeda and was blacklisted by the U.N. Security Council in 2001. In December 2001, Jaish fighters, along with members of another Pakistan-based militant group, Lashkar-e-Taiba, attacked India’s parliament, which almost led to a fourth war between the two countries.

Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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