Afghan M.P.'s, insurgent leader's relative, seeking peace talks

KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghan parliamentarians held an unannounced meeting last week with a relative of insurgent leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar that participants hope can lead to the start of peace negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government, a participant in the meeting said Thursday.

No agreement was reached in the talks in the Maldives Islands on Jan. 23-24, other than to seek the support of the Afghan government, the Taliban and Hekmatyar for negotiations to end the current war, Haji Ubaidullah Achakzai, a member of parliament, told McClatchy.

Achakzai said Afghan President Hamid Karzai was aware of the talks as was U.N. envoy Kai Eide.

U.N. spokesman Dan McNorton told McClatchy this was the first he'd heard of it. A Karzai spokesman could not be immediately reached.

Achakzai, an independent member of parliament from Spin Boldak, south of Kandahar, said the talks would not go forward unless they had support of the parties to the conflict, among them the United States and other countries that have sent troops here to help defend the Karzai government.

He said if there are future talks, he expects that three topics will be on the agenda: how to stop the war, how to deal with the presence of foreign forces in Afghanistan, and how to remove the names of other Taliban from the U.N. sanctions list which restricts their travel abroad and freezes their bank accounts.

But he said there was no discussion of these points during the four sessions held in the Maldives.

The U.N. lifted the sanctions on five former Taliban officials early this week.

Afghans attending included a number of members of the parliament, tribal elders, Islamic clerical leaders and Islamic scholars, Achakzai said.

The Maldives meeting, first reported by Al Jazeera television, was the third in a series of what Achakzai called the "Conference of Afghans." Achakzai said it was the first one he had attended.

Special correspondent Nooruddin Bakshi contributed

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