Taliban want US prisoners sent to Qatar: Official

Last Updated: Friday, January 6, 2012 - 18:22

Kabul: Afghanistan`s Taliban insurgents have demanded in negotiations with the US that prisoners held in Guantanamo Bay be transferred to Qatar, an Afghan government spokesman said on Friday.
But President Hamid Karzai`s government objects strongly
to the move and wants the prisoners sent directly to
Afghanistan, presidential spokesman Aimal Faizi told AFP.

The Taliban announced this week that they planned to set
up a political office in Qatar, a move seen as a precursor to
peace talks with Washington.

At the same time, the hardline Islamists demanded the
release of prisoners from the US military detention centre at
Guantanamo Bay in Cuba -- but the statement did not specify
where they should be sent.

Karzai was told by the US about the demand that they
should go to Qatar shortly before the Bonn conference on
Afghanistan in December, Faizi said.
"Several meetings had taken place between the Americans
and the Taliban. It was something discussed between the two
sides.

"But that day, when the Americans talked to Karzai, it
was the first time that they talked about the transfer of the
prisoners to Qatar."

Faizi said his government was in favour of a release of
Guantanamo prisoners, "but we don`t want them to go directly
to Qatar -- our government is strongly against it".

Karzai`s government is concerned about being sidelined in
the negotiations towards possible peace between the Taliban
and the US, and Faizi stressed that it wanted "an Afghan-led
transition".

"The prisoners should be sent to the Afghan government
first. We`ve been discussing this with the USA for the last
five-six years. But so far, we have reached no agreement on
that issue."

Washington said on Wednesday it had taken no decision to
release prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay in order to boost
negotiations aimed at ending the 10-year war with the Taliban
in Afghanistan.

The US led an invasion of Afghanistan after the 9/11
attacks on New York and Washington, ousting the hardline
Taliban government, and about 130,000 US-led troops are still
in the country.

PTI



First Published: Friday, January 6, 2012 - 18:22

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