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Pakistan denies arrests thwarted Taliban talks

Last Updated: Saturday, March 20, 2010 - 09:35

Islamabad: Pakistan rejected on Friday a suggestion from the former head of the UN mission in Afghanistan that the arrest of senior Afghan Taliban members in Pakistan may have disrupted talks with UN representatives.

Norwegian Kai Eide, who stepped down this month, said talks with the Taliban dried up several weeks ago after more than a dozen Taliban were captured in joint US-Pakistan operations.

The most prominent Afghan Taliban leader picked up in Pakistan was top military strategist Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar.

Since the announcement last month of his arrest in Karachi by the US and Pakistani agents, there has been speculation Baradar might have been talking to Kabul in recent months and that might subsequently have led to his arrest.

Analysts say Pakistan has long seen the Afghan Taliban as a tool to promote its interests in Afghanistan, where it wants to see a friendly government in power and to limit the influence of old rival India.

With momentum building for some sort of talks with the Taliban to end a war Western commanders say they cannot win militarily, Pakistan wants to be in control of any reconciliation process to promote its aims, analysts say.

Eide told the BBC World Service in an interview that he thought speculation Pakistan wanted to end the talks because it wanted to be in control of the process was probably right.

But a Pakistani government spokesman rejected that.

"The fact of the matter is that Mullah Baradar`s arrest was a joint operation with the US and had nothing to do with talks or reconciliation," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Abdul Basit.

Pakistan has long called for talks to end the Afghan war and Eide`s comments were a misinterpretation of its aims, he said.

"Pakistan is committed to support an Afghanistan-led re-integration and reconciliation process so any other contentions, we believe, are a misrepresentation and misinterpretation of our intentions," Basit said.

Bureau Report

First Published: Saturday, March 20, 2010 - 09:35

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