Taliban demands removal of leaders names from US, UN terror blacklist

London/Kabul, Oct. 30 (ANI): The Afghan Taliban is demanding that the names of its senior leaders are removed from US and United Nations terror blacklists and that a number of prisoners are released as a precondition of further peace talks.

The Telegraph quoted Gubuddin Hekmatyar, a key insurgent negotiator as saying: "For the Taliban side, it's all about the blacklists and the release of prisoners as a goodwill gesture."

He added: "Those are the main issues - as well of course as the withdrawal of foreign troops. After that, in the later stages, would be talks about the setting up of a joint government."

The chances of a negotiated settlement have grown in recent weeks as the prospect of a military victory for NATO-led forces has diminished.

Earlier this month, Afghan President Hamid Karzai inaugurated a jirga or peace council of tribal elders and former warlords amid mounting reports that two insurgent groups - the Taliban of Mullah Omar and the Haqqani network - had begun talks with Kabul.

Last week, The Daily Telegraph reported that Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, reputed to be the second in command of the Afghan Taliban until his arrest in Karachi, had been spirited from a cell in Pakistan to hold secret talks with officials in Afghanistan.

Baheer said Hizb-I-Islami was in regular contact with government officials but the process was at an early stage.

He said little progress could be expected from the Taliban until its leader, Mullah Omar, was included in talks.

He said: "If there's no approach to him then it can't be fruitful," he said. "You cannot ignore the boss or founder of the political party."

The UN sanctions blacklist drawn up in 1999 freezes assets, restricts travel and prohibits arms sales for al-Qaeda figures including Osama bin Laden, as well as 135 high-ranking members of the former Taliban regime.

They include Mullah Omar, Mullah Baradar and dozens of Taliban commanders who acted as governors when they held power in Afghanistan.

Several Taliban leaders have been removed from the blacklist at Kabul's request as a possible overture to negotiations.

However, the US has ruled out releasing Taliban prisoners held in Guantánamo Bay. (ANI)

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