UN enovy jeopardising Afghan peace with rash statements: Taliban
Monday, August 14 11:52 PM SGT
KABUL, Aug 14 (AFP) - Afghan Foreign Minister Wakil Ahmad Mutawakel on Monday warned that UN special envoy Francesc Vendrell could undermine peace efforts with rash comments against the ruling Taliban Islamic militia.
He was speaking as fighting continued to rage in the northeastern Afghan province of Takhar, where the Taliban have cut opposition military commander Ahmad Shah Masood's main supply line to the border with Tajikistan and captured several towns in recent weeks.
Vendrell has recently been quoted in the media as accusing the Taliban of initiating the latest round of fighting in the northeast and expressing concern over "Pakistan's backing" for the militia.
"These are his own illusions. We rely on nobody," Mutawakel said.
The Taliban minister said the authorities here were shocked at the comments, which could "naturally" jeopardize his role as a peace-broker between the militia and their opponents.
"We expect him to make cautious and well calculated judgements," he said.
Mutawakel said the Taliban would be within their rights to react but did not specify what action could be taken.
"Reaction is always the result of an action. So whatever ... the force of an action, the force of the reaction should match," he told a press conference here.
Vendrell, a Spanish professor, was appointed late last year and has been shuttling between the warring factions and regional capitals of Afghanistan to collect a range of views before proposing a UN-backed solution.
Pakistan has publicly supported his efforts and denies offering the Taliban military backing. But it admits that it cannot control individuals who want to volunteer to fight with the Islamic militia.
The fundamentalist Taliban grew out of religious schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan in 1994 and took control of Kabul in 1996. They are still battling pockets of resistance from forces loyal to ousted president Burhanuddin Rabbani.
Without mentioning "surrender," Mutawakel urged Masood's forces to lay down their arms and "cease hostilities for the sake of the country's interests".
The opposition has shown readiness to discuss peace under a UN-brokered ceasefire, but Mutawakel said "ceasefires do not need talks."
"The opposition can extinguish the fire with a simple move," he said.
Opposition spokesman Mohammad Habeel said the Taliban resumed a full-scale attack Monday afternoon against their positions around the Takhar provincial capital of Taloqan.
"Our soldiers rebuffed their attack launched from three directions," he said, adding that the Taliban used tanks, armoured personnel carriers, jets and cavalry in their spearheads.
Habeel said the frontlines were about 20 kilometers (12 miles) west of Taloqan, Masood's second headquarters after the Panjshir valley northeast of Kabul.
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