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Afghanistan: RFE/RL Interviews Former Taliban Involved In Reconciliation Talks


http://gdb.rferl.org/DCE574CF-B46B-42D5-B29B-58006B6B328C_w203.jpg --> http://gdb.rferl.org/DCE574CF-B46B-42D5-B29B-58006B6B328C_mw800_mh600.jpg Habibullah Fawzi, a former Taliban diplomat at the Afghan Embassy in Riyadh, is one of four senior former Taliban members who have responded to an amnesty offer by the Afghan government. In an exclusive interview with RFE/RL, he explains his motivations and plans for the future. RFE/RL correspondents Sultan Sarwar and Golnaz Esfandiari report.

Prague, 4 March 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Habibullah Fawzi, a former Taliban diplomat, says talks between former members of the Taliban militia and the Afghan government aimed at national reconciliation have been going on for two years.

Fawzi says there has been a considerable amount of understanding between the two sides -- without going into details.

"For the higher interests of the country, we think there is a need for a political process in order to reach a mutual understanding between different ethnic groups, based on Islamic principles and Afghan values," Fawzi says. "We want to bring peace, unity, and stability to our country, and we believe that strengthening peace and stability in Afghanistan is not only in the benefit of Afghans, but it is also in the interest of the region and the world."

The Afghan government has called on former Taliban members to join the country's social and political life. The only individuals excluded are those involved with terrorist groups or committing atrocities. The call is supported by the United States.
The former Taliban officials distance themselves from militants who are continuing attacks in the southern and eastern regions of the country. They say they are talking to the government in the name of their party -- not as Taliban members.


Fawzi, along with Abdul Hakim Mujahid, a former envoy to the United Nations; Arsullah Rahmani, the former deputy minister of higher education; and Rahmatullah Wahidyar, a former deputy minister of refugees and returnees, are the highest-ranking former Taliban to participate in the talks.

All four fled to Pakistan after U.S. and Afghan forces drove the Taliban from power in late 2001.

The former Taliban officials distance themselves from militants who are continuing attacks in the southern and eastern regions of the country. They say they are talking to the government in the name of their party -- not as Taliban members.

"We talked to the government representing the Khuddam ul Furqan [Servants of the Koran] -- not the Taliban," Fawzi says. "Of course there are some groups who are in favor of military actions, but we believe the majority of people think that for establishing peace and stability in the country conflict and clashes should end."

The ousted Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar and his supporters have condemned the talks as a plot and say they will continue their fight against foreign forces and the Afghan government.

Fawzi tells RFE/RL that the four share the Hamid Karzai government's vision of peace and stability.

"We believe that Afghanistan is an Islamic country and the desire of the people should be reflected in the government, we want the representatives of public to join the government, so that a national Islamic government is formed, the representatives of peopleshould be chosen according to their will, their demands should be fulfilled," Fawzi says. "And there should be an end to the atmosphere of intimidation, lack of confidence, and fear.... Instead of people being harmed under different names, effective steps must be taken to solve their problems.

Reports of the talks have met with mixed reactions by the general population, though several Afghans interviewed by RFE/RL expressed hope the move would put an end to the fighting and boost reconstruction efforts.
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