KABUL The Taliban said on Saturday it would not take part in peace talks brokered by a four-way group including representatives of Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, and the United States.
The Taliban, ousted from power in a U.S.-led military intervention in 2001, has been waging a violent insurgency to try to topple the Western-backed Afghan government and reestablish a fundamentalist Islamic regime.
Following a meeting of the so-called Quadrilateral Coordination Group made up of representatives of the four countries in Kabul in February, officials said they expected direct peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban to begin in early March.
But the Taliban, which calls itself the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, publicly denied they would be participating in any upcoming talks in Islamabad.
With the American troops remaining in the country conducting air strikes and special operations raids in support of the Kabul government, the Taliban would not participate in talks, the group said in a statement.
"We reject all such rumors and unequivocally state that the leader of Islamic Emirate has not authorised anyone to participate in this meeting," the statement said. "(Islamic Emirate) once again reiterates that unless the occupation of Afghanistan is ended, black lists eliminated and innocent prisoners freed, such futile misleading negotiations will not bear any results."
Direct talks between Kabul and the Taliban have been on hold since last year's announcement of the death of the movement's founder and long-time leader Mullah Mohammed Omar some two years earlier.
New leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour has laid down preconditions for taking part in any talks as he struggles to overcome factional infighting, with some breakaway groups opposing any negotiations whatsoever.
(Reporting by Josh Smith and Mushtaq Yusufzai. Editing by Jane Merriman)
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