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Talks with moderate Taliban waste of time: ex-envoy

The former Taliban regime's envoy to Pak says that the talks are a conspiracy to create a rift among their ranks.

world Updated: Apr 06, 2007 12:27 IST

The former Taliban regime's envoy to Pakistan says that talks proposed by the German government with the moderate Taliban are a "waste of time" and a "conspiracy" to create a rift among their ranks.

"The sharing of power with some Taliban, and to separate the Taliban, is a conspiracy that the Taliban know, and it will not be successful," Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, the former Taliban regime's ambassador to Islamabad, said in an exclusive interview at his Kabul house.

Senior German officials, including Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, have asked Berlin to host an Afghan peace conference where Taliban moderates could discuss terms with the Kabul authorities.

Kurt Beck, who is leader of Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition partner, first made the proposal during his visit to Afghanistan. Beck told reporters about his proposal after meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kabul.

After the fall of the Taliban in late 2001 in a US-led military operation, Zaeef was arrested by Pakistani forces and was then handed over to US authorities in January 2002.

Zaeef, who spent nearly four years in US military jail in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, earlier and was released in September 2005, disputed that there were differences among the Taliban.

"There is no separation between Taliban as moderate, hardliner or others. This is the definition that world communities are making. There is no difference in Taliban. It is not in Islam. Islam is the same and Taliban are the same," he said.

Zaeef, who lives under house arrest by the Afghan government, said that if the West "really wants to solve through negotiation, it should be with all the Taliban, but if they (West) want to separate them, they will not succeed".

The German government should propose talks with those Taliban who were currently fighting with Afghan and international forces in the country, he said, adding that "sharing power with those who don't fight and are sitting at their homes would not solve the problem".

"Talking only with some Taliban will be conspiracy against the Taliban," he said. "They want to make them weak. Every Talib knows that.

This is something that the world wants, and I think this is not a good idea. This is not a solution. This is just wasting of time, and wasting of a chance to talk to the Taliban."

Zaeef said the Taliban were not fighting for power. They were fighting because of the presence of foreign troops in Afghanistan.

"The majority of the people are not happy with foreigners, their interfering in Afghanistan's internal issue and staying in the country," he said.

"I think the problem is not with Karzai, with the government or with the system. The problem is with foreigners and they (Taliban) are fighting them and called their war a freedom fight."

Beck's proposal for negotiation has also sparked criticism both at home and by Afghan government officials.

Afghan Foreign Minister Rangin Dadfar Spanta, responding to a call for Berlin to host an Afghan peace conference, said, "as military and political entities, I see no moderate and non-moderate Taliban".

Such a classification was "an invention of those who have no knowledge about Afghanistan", he said.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's own party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), has also rejected the idea. CDU Secretary-General Ronald Pofalla dismissed as "abstruse," the "idea of inviting the radical Islamic Taliban to Germany."

Taliban remnants since their ouster five years ago have waged a bloody war against Afghan and NATO-led forces mainly in southern and eastern part of the country.

The militancy in 2006 left over 4,000 people, mostly insurgents.

Germany has around 3,000 troops serving among 37 countries' forces under the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in relatively peaceful northern Afghanistan.

Six German Tornado jets, which will carry out surveillance and reconnaissance missions to help their NATO allies, arrived in Mazar-e-Sharif on Thursday.

First Published: Apr 06, 2007 12:23 IST