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    Governance

    Taliban rule out negotiations with Karzai govt.

    KABUL (PAN): The Taliban have confirmed for the first time meeting US officials in Qatar for possible peace talks, ruling out similar negotiations with the government of President Hamid Karzai.

    On the sidelines of the second Bonn Conference, the US, Germany and Qatar agreed to set up a Taliban office in Doha, a move supported by the Afghan government and welcomed by the fighters.

    In response to an e-mail from CNN late on Tuesday, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said they did not want to talk to the Karzai administration.  The militants viewed the president as politically irrelevant.

    Mujahid rejected reports that the Taliban had been invited to talks with Afghan government officials in Saudi Arabia. "We have never been asked to attend talks with Karzai administration officials.”

    He made clear: “Even if invited, we won't enter such talks, because Karzai is a stooge of the foreign powers. We believe cannot be re-elected. Meeting Afghan government officials will not help resolve the issue."

    The Taliban desired direct talks with the US, Mujahid said, adding: "The issue is ... who is powerful and has got the power to make a decision…everyone around the world knows America is leading opposition to the mujahideen (Taliban)."

    He said Taliban had sought confidence-building measures from the US for the negotiations to proceed. "The trust-building phase is totally up to Americans, and they have to take measures and our conditions are: Exchange of Guantanamo prisoners, the establishment of a political office (in Qatar), removing the sanction lists of the UN."

    Mas/mud