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Afghanistan: Factions Position Themselves Before Talks

Islamabad, 6 June 1997 (RFE/RL) - Pakistan's Foreign Ministry said today Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is expected to visit Iran later this month for talks on the conflict in neighboring Afghanistan.

Both Iran and Pakistan say they favor United Nations peace efforts aimed at forming a broad-based government in Afghanistan that includes all ethnic, political and religious groups. Pakistan was the first country to formally recognize the Islamist Taliban government in Kabul. But Iran still recognizes the ousted government of President Burhanuddin Rabbani.

Meanwhile, Taliban ambassador to Islamabad Shahabuddin Dilawar today demanded that opposition forces in the north release arrested Taliban leaders before any talks begin.

Dilawar did not name any officials held by General Abdul Malik's forces. But correspondents say they include Taliban Foreign Minister Mullah Mohammad Ghaus and Herat governor Mullah Abdul Razaq. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said yesterday that it is preparing to register about 700 Taliban fighters who are now prisoners in Malik's stronghold, Mazar-I-Sharif.