Mazar-i-Sharif, 23 October 1996 (RFE/RL) -- In Afghanistan, northern warlord General Abdul Rashid Dostum held talks today with United Nations and Pakistani mediators seeking to prevent a bloody battle for Kabul.
UN special envoy Norbert Holl, speaking after three hours of talks at a Dostum base, said a second round of talks will be held before he flies tomorrow to Kandahar to convey proposals to the Taliban leadership there.
Witnesses say the rival forces pounded each other with artillery, mortar and rocket fire today in a battle for the heights overlooking one of two roads leading into Kabul. Troops loyal to ousted government military commander Ahmad Shah Masood have fought their way back toward Kabul after the Taliban drove them from the capital on September 27.
Dostum has sent units of his army to support Masood's fighters. But it is not clear whether Dostum has actually committed his men to the battle.
Pakistan's Foreign Ministry condemned what it says are moves to divide Afghanistan along ethnic lines by accentuating ethnic division to promote narrow strategic interests -- a reference to the growing ethnic divide between the mainly Pashtun Taliban and their ethnic Uzbek, Tajik and Hazara foes.