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Taliban demands withdrawal of French troops

world Updated: Apr 21, 2007 14:36 IST

AFP
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Taliban holding two French aid workers hostage in southern Afghanistan have called for the withdrawal of French NATO troops and the freeing of imprisoned militants in exchange for their release, in a statement on their website.

The statement, published on Friday, demanded the "French government withdraw its soldiers from Afghanistan in one week" and called on the Kabul administration "for a rapid response with regard to an exchange of prisoners."

Around 1,000 French troops are deployed in the Kabul region as part of the NATO force.

Paris last night said it was analysing the demands, the first to be made publicly.

"We have taken note of the instructions which figure in the Taliban website. We are analysing them," said French foreign ministry spokesman Jean-Baptiste Mattei.

"We will not make any other comments."

The statement, published in English, has not been authenticated.

Its release two days ahead of the first round of the French presidential election tomorrow sharply increases the pressure on Paris to find a solution to the hostage crisis.

The two hostages, from the Terre d'Enfance (A World For Our Children) charity, were identified only as Celine and Eric.

They were seized in the southwestern province of Nimroz on April 3 along with three Afghan colleagues.