Taliban deny meeting UN envoy for Afghan peace talks

KABUL, Jan. 30 (AFP) – The Taliban denied Saturday that leaders of the Islamist group fighting to overthrow the Afghan government had met with UN representatives to discuss bringing peace to Afghanistan.

The Taliban issued a statement branding reports of a meeting with the UN's outgoing special representative to Afghanistan, Kai Eide, in Dubai this month as "rumours" and "propaganda".

(AFP files) Taliban fighters are seen during a patrol in Ghazni province, on January 23.

Referring to itself as "the leading council of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan" -- as it did during its 1996-2001 rule of the war-torn nation -- the group said the reports were "propaganda by the invading forces against the jihad and mujahideen".

"The leading council of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan strongly denies the rumours reported by some international media about talks between Kai Eide and representatives of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan," the Taliban said.

"To defuse this (propaganda) we insist on continuing our holy Islamic jihad against the enemy," it said in a statement, referring to the US and NATO forces fighting the Taliban insurgency.

The statement said the Taliban's refusal to negotiate peace had ensured that an international conference in London on Thursday, attended by around 70 countries, was a failure.

"Now in an effort to recover their military and political prestige, the enemies are resorting to a propaganda conspiracy," it said.

The reports that Eide had met with Taliban figures emerged after the conference, which aimed to thrash out a roadmap for Afghanistan's future with one of the main themes being the social reintegration of Taliban fighters.

A UN official revealed that "active members of the insurgency" had met Eide this month, at their request, to discuss peace talks.

Kai Eide met the men in Dubai, reportedly on January 8, and details were shared with the Afghan government, the official said on condition of anonymity.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, who hosted the conference, declined Friday to comment on the reported meeting, calling it an "allegation".

Asked to comment while attending the annual World Economic Forum meeting in the Swiss Alps, Miliband said tersely: "You'll have to talk to the UN about that, because that's an allegation that's been run in the newspapers."

The Taliban had already dismissed the London conference as a propaganda ploy, calling US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown "war-mongering rulers" who wanted "to deceive the people of the world... that people still support them".

The statement also dismissed a plan by Afghan President Hamid Karzai to woo what he and Western leaders refer to as Taliban "moderates" -- essentially unemployed and poor men who fighting for cash rather than ideology -- with offers of money and jobs.

"They announce that they will provide money, employment and opportunity to have a comfortable life abroad for those mujahedeen who agree to part ways with jihad," the Taliban said in an earlier statement.

"This is baseless and futile," it said. "Had the aim of the mujahedeen of the Islamic Emirate been obtainment of material goals, they would accept dominance of the invaders in the first place."

And it criticised the Afghan government as corrupt, describing as fraudulent the recent presidential election, after which Karzai, linked to a high proportion of bogus ballots, was declared victor.

"Traffickers of intoxicating items, human rights violators, corrupt persons, national traitors and usurpers of people's private property grabbed power," it said.

Karzai's government is backed by 113,000 troops US and NATO troops, with another 40,000 being deployed this year, bringing the fight to the Taliban, who many military officials say are starting to show signs of battlefield fatigue.

Nevertheless, the usual winter slowdown in fighting has failed to materialise, with foreign troop deaths at 44 for this month, compared to 25 for January 2009.

The latest deaths came on Friday, according to NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), which released a brief statement saying that two US soldiers and a US civilian were killed in eastern Afghanistan.

An ISAF spokesman confirmed to AFP the "employee" was an American civilian but said no further information was available on what happened or where.

Source: AFP

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