KABUL: Some high-ranking Taliban officials in the
besieged southern city of Kandahar have agreed with supporters of
Afghanistan's former king to join a national reconciliation government, a top
Pashtun leader told AFP on Sunday.
( AFP )
"Some Taliban, including high-ranking officials, are in contact with us.
They have agreed to national reconciliation and to the establishment of a
national government," former Afghan deputy foreign minister Hamid Karzai
said by telephone from the neighbouring province of Uruzgan.
But he declined to give the names "for the time being" of the
Taliban officials concerned because it "could endanger their
Karzai is one of three Pashtun leaders in southern Afghanistan who have been
negotiating with the Taliban leadership inside its spiritual bastion of
Kandahar with a view to ending the siege without bloodshed.
Former king Mohammed Zahir Shah, an ethnic Pashtun who has lived in exile
since being deposed in 1973, has become a focus of international efforts to
form a broad-based post-Taliban government.
The Pashtuns are Afghanistan's dominant ethnic group and made up the backbone
of the Taliban.
Many ethnic Pashtun have voiced concern that the Tajik-dominated Northern
Alliance could seek to monopolise the next Afghan regime after its dramatic
capture of Kabul and other key cities in the north last week.
Karzai conceded Sunday that the Taliban were still in control of Kandahar
city, but added that some districts in Kandahar province had been
"liberated" through popular uprisings.
Taliban fighters from Kandahar clashed with Karzai's supporters in Uruzgan
province on Saturday, the tribal leader said, adding that US war planes had
destroyed 30 out of 80 jeeps mobilised by the Taliban, killing mostly Arab and
However, Karzai expressed hope that "soon as a result of contacts and
negotiations the situation in Kandahar will be peacefully solved."
Earlier reports that the Taliban's supreme spiritual leader Mullah Mohammad
Omar had agreed to surrender the city to the two other Pashtun chiefs, Mullah
Naqibullah and Haji Bashar, were dismissed by the militia's spokesman as
Karzai, a close associate of the former king, is urging the Taliban to
surrender not only Kandahar but also Saudi extremist Osama bin Laden, the
world's most wanted man.
The Northern Alliance's acting interior minister, Younis Qanooni, told AFP on
Sunday that Bin Laden was hiding 130 kilometres (about 80 miles) east of
Western intelligence forces cited in the British press Sunday said that US and
British special forces had cornered the Saudi-born dissident -- blamed for the
September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States -- in an 80 square
kilometre (30 square mile) area southeast of Kandahar.