Taliban reject opposition move to form leadership council : report
Mon 01 Mar 99 - 16:38 GMT
ISLAMABAD, March 1 (AFP) - Afghanistan's Taliban militia Monday said it was ready for talks with the opposition on ceasefire and a prisoner exchange, but rejected a move by its rivals to form a leadership council.
The Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) quoted a Taliban spokesman as saying the opposition was not in a position to form a leadership council or a parliament for northern Afghanistan, as it held only 10 percent of Afghan territory.
"How can they talk about a multi-party leadership or parliament in Afghanistan?" spokesman Wakil Ahmad asked.
The opposition on Sunday formed a commission to set up a multi-party leadership council with a 12-member cabinet and establish a parliament in northern Afghanistan, AIP reported.
Quoting sources close to the key anti-Taliban commander, Ahmad Shah Masood, the Pakistan-based private information service said the leadership council would comprise 40 members drawn from opposition parties.
The opposition parties after a series of meetings in the Masood-held northern Parwan province also agreed to form a 150-member nominated parliament, it said.
The commission furtehr decided to appoint 12 ministers, it said without giving a breakdown of the parties.
It said the commission would hold its first session on March 17.
It did not say who would head the commission.
Afghan analysts said the move was aimed at reorganizing the opposition alliance after a series of major setbacks suffered by member parties last year, when Taliban troops overran key opposition strongholds in central and northern Afghanistan.
The Taliban, holding some 80 percent of the Afghan land, routed ethnic Uzbek general Abdul Rashid Dostam's party in northern Mazar-i-Sharif and flushed out a pro-Iran Shiite party, the Hezb-i-Wahdat, from central Bamiyan province.
The Taliban advance in August and September also inflicted a major blow to former president Burhanuddin Rabbani's Jamiat-i-Islami faction, leaving mostly Masood's Shoora-i-Nazaar militia to resist Taliban's ambitions to control all Afghanistan.
Afghan sources said the move also follows recent warnings from Taliban chief Mulla Mohammad Omar that his troops would crush Masood forces.
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