KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) _ The ruling Taliban criticized the United States and Russia on Saturday for considering new U.N.-sponsored sanctions against Afghanistan, which it said was suffering enough from drought and war.

A Taliban Foreign Ministry statement said Afghanistan's people need international aid, not more sanctions _ which were proposed because of the country's alleged support of terrorist networks and continued refusal to hand over suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden for trial.

The United Nations imposed limited sanctions in November to punish Taliban rulers for refusing to hand bin Laden to the United States or a third country to stand trial for allegedly masterminding the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa.

The Taliban have refused to budge so far, saying bin Laden is a guest and fellow Muslim. They have, however, assured that bin Laden has been prohibited from carrying out terrorist activities from Afghan soil.

Russia has accused Afghanistan of sponsoring terrorism and helping rebels the separatist region of Chechnya. Last month, Moscow threatened airstrikes against the Central Asian country.

But the Taliban denied Russia's allegations, and Saturday's statement reiterated that the Taliban were not sponsoring or supporting terrorism.

Afghans have been devastated by drought and economic hardship, especially since the Soviet Union's invasion and foreign interference in the 1980s, the statement said.

``We understand the reason of Russian hostilities,'' the statement said. ``But the United States, which helped us in defeating Russia, should refrain from any action against Afghanistan.''

Soviet troops invaded Afghanistan in 1979 in an effort to prop up a faltering pro-Moscow communist regime. Russian forces were withdrawn a decade later after a bitter war with Afghan mujahedeen _ or holy warriors.

The Taliban rule almost 90 percent of the country, including its capital, Kabul. Northern-based opposition forces control the remainder of the country.