Taliban may release three Iranian truck drivers Thursday
Wed 02 Sep 98 - 13:39 GMT
ISLAMABAD, Sept 2 (AFP) - Iran's charge d'affaires in Islamabad is expected to accompany Pakistani officials into Afghanistan to receive three Iranian truck drivers to be freed by the Taliban militia, a Taliban official said Wednesday.
Wakil Ahmad Mutawakel, speaking by satellite phone from his Kandahar base inside Afghanistan, said the Taliban were in contact with Tehran through Pakistan and the drivers could be released Thursday.
Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar earlier agreed as a "gesture of goodwill" to free the three drivers who were arrested in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif, the Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) reported.
They were among 30 Iranian truck drivers whom Taliban forces said they arrested after driving Afghan opposition troops out of their stronghold of Mazar-i-Sharif on August 8.
The Taliban accused the Iranians of transporting military equipment for the anti-Taliban alliance, which includes the Iranian-backed Shiite Moslem group Hezb-i-Wahdat.
Iran and the Taliban are also locked in a furious row over 10 missing Iranian diplomats and an Iranian journalist.
Tehran says its 11 nationals were seized by the Taliban after the fall of Mazar-i-Sharif, a charge repeated by the Iranian foreign ministry on Wednesday.
In a bid to pressure the Taliban into releasing the diplomats, Iran is conducting unprecedented war games near the Afghan border involving some 70,000 Revolutionary Guards.
But the Taliban have repeatedly insisted they have no knowledge of the whereabouts of the diplomats.
AIP quoted Omar as saying the Taliban had asked the United Nations to mediate between Tehran and Kabul over the missing diplomats while the remaining Iranian truck drivers stay in the Taliban headquarters at Kandahar.
Omar also said the Taliban were involved in talks with Pakistan over the Iranian truck drivers, the diplomats and the journalist.
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