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Tajik Opposition Says it Will Not Attend Parliament Session

Dushanbe, March 1 (RFE/RL) - The Tajik opposition says it will not send representatives to a special session of parliament on March 11 until one of its leaders has been found and released.

Akbar Turajonzode, who is head of the opposition's delegation to U.N.-sponsored peace talks, told RFE/RL today that representatives would boycott the session as long as Zafar Rakhmanov is missing. Rakhmanov, the opposition's chief negotiator at ceasefire talks, was abducted last week in the capital Dushanbe by unidentified armed men. His whereabouts are still unknown.

Turajonzode was reacting to comments by Iran's Ambassador to Tajikistan, Ali Ashraf Shabustari, who in an interview with RFE/RL today said both sides had agreed that an opposition delegation would attend the parliament session. The ambassador's remarks follow a visit by Iran's Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati to Tajikistan yesterday.

However, Turajonzode welcomed the ambassador's announcement that the government had agreed to a prisoner exchange, but said the deal must be formalized. The ambassador earlier told RFE/RL the two sides also had agreed in principle to exchange an equal number of prisoners, but without setting exact figures.