Backing anti-Taliban efforts in Afghanistan, the U.S. House of Representatives passed an aid budget of $6.4 billion for the country until 2010, with an explicit ban against helping areas involved in the drug trade or in assisting rebels. “We cannot allow a resurgence of the Taliban. If we do, al Qaeda will once again be able to use Afghanistan as a state-sponsored launching pad for terror,” said House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Lantos. He was seconded by Florida Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who stressed the need for a counter-narcotics strategy – such as the aid ban – arguing that the “poppy cult” and heroin trade funded Taliban activities. The Congress also demanded that the Bush administration disclose information on the alleged entry of Iranian arms into Afghanistan. The White House is protesting the bill, which has yet to pass Senate approval, claiming it will only create an “unrealistically high bar” in providing aid. (Source: U.S. House puts conditions on Afghan aid/Reuters)

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