New UN Envoy For Afghanistan Meets Opposition Leaders
Tuesday, February 8 7:59 PM SGT
ISLAMABAD (AP)--Seeking to negotiate a peace deal that has eluded his predecessors, the new U.N. envoy to Afghanistan opened talks Tuesday with the opposition alliance that is fighting Afghanistan's ruling Taliban movement.
Francesc Vendrell, appointed last month by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, met with the opposition leaders in neighboring Dushanbe, Tajikistan, according to opposition spokesman, Abdullah, who uses only one name.
U.N. efforts to broker a peace deal in Afghanistan have repeatedly failed over the years, and Vendrell is the latest in a line of U.N. representatives who has tried to bring the warring sides together.
Vendrell met Burhanuddin Rabbani, who served as Afghanistan's president until the Taliban seized power in 1996, and Ahmed Shah Massood, the military leader of the opposition forces, according to Abdullah.
"We told (Vendrell) that we need the establishment of a broad-based government and the holding of elections for a peaceful solution," Abdullah said. The opposition alliance, made up of ethnic Tajiks, Uzbeks and other minorities in Afghanistan, controls about 10 percent of the country in the northeast. The fundamentalist Taliban hold the other 90 percent.
The previous U.N. envoy to Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi, resigned in frustration last October after weeks of unsuccessful shuttle diplomacy between the Taliban and the opposition.
The Taliban and the United Nations have had strained relations since the fundamentalist Islamic group came to power more than three years ago. Relations further deteriorated in November when the United Nations imposed limited sanctions after the Taliban refused to hand over suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden.
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