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The fate of S Korean hostages remains unclear

world Updated: Aug 11, 2007 12:07 IST

IANS
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The fate of 21 South Koreans held hostage in Afghanistan by the Taliban remained unclear after the first direct talks between negotiators from Seoul and the militant group ended inconclusively, officials said on Saturday.

Further details of the talks held on Friday could not be given, a spokesman for the South Korean president's office told reporters. But he added that the end of the first round of talks did not mean efforts to negotiate had ended.

South Korea's Yonhap news agency said the government was working to arrange further meetings with the Taliban.

Seoul diplomats and Taliban representatives met on Friday night in the southern Afghan province Ghazni after the Afghan government had guaranteed safety for the Taliban's negotiators at the venue.

The Taliban kidnapped 23 South Korean health aid volunteers July 19 in the southern Ghazni province while they were travelling by bus from Kabul to the southern Kandahar province.

The Taliban have been demanding the release of eight of its cadres held in Afghan jails in exchange for the release of the hostages. They have since killed two male hostages after initial deadlines to meet their demand expired.