The Taliban have denied that leaders of the Islamist group fighting to overthrow the Afghan government met with UN representatives to discuss bringing peace to Afghanistan. The Taliban issued a statement branding reports of a meeting with the UN's outgoing special representative to Afghanistan, Kai Eide, in Dubai this month as "rumours" and "propaganda". Referring to itself as "the leading council of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan" - as it did during its 1996-2001 rule of Afghanistan - the group said the reports were "propaganda by the invading forces against the jihad and mujahideen".
"The leading council of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan strongly denies the rumours reported by some international media about talks between Kai Eide and representatives of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan," the Taliban said. "To defuse this (propaganda) we insist on continuing our holy Islamic jihad against the enemy," it said in a statement, referring to the US and NATO forces fighting the Taliban insurgency.
The statement said the Taliban's refusal to negotiate peace had ensured that an international conference in London on Thursday, attended by about 70 countries, was a failure. "Now in an effort to recover their military and political prestige, the enemies are resorting to a propaganda conspiracy," it said. The reports that Mr Eide had met with Taliban figures emerged after the conference, which aimed to thrash out a roadmap for Afghanistan's future with one of the main themes being the social reintegration of Taliban fighters.
A UN official revealed that "active members of the insurgency" had met Mr Eide this month, at their request, to discuss peace talks. Kai Eide met the men in Dubai, reportedly on January 8, and details were shared with the Afghan government, the official said on condition of anonymity. The British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, who hosted the conference, declined on Friday to comment on the reported meeting, calling it an "allegation".
Asked to comment while attending the annual World Economic Forum meeting in the Swiss Alps, Mr Miliband said tersely: "You'll have to talk to the UN about that, because that's an allegation that's been run in the newspapers." *AFP