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Top UN Envoy Meets Afghan Militant Delegation


Staffan de Mistura, the UN special representative in Afghanistan
KABUL -- The top UN envoy for Afghanistan has met with delegates from one of the country's main militant groups.

The UN mission said Staffan de Mistura, the special UN representative in Afghanistan, met with delegates from Hizb-e Islami, one of the groups that has been fighting NATO-led forces. The group is headed by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a former mujahedin commander and prime minister during Afghanistan’s civil war of the 1990s.

A UN statement said that in the meeting, the envoy underscored the importance of Afghan-led dialogue in order to bring stability to this country.

In a statement, Hizb-e Islami described the talks as "fruitful," adding that it appeared that "all sides involved in Afghanistan's efforts to boost peace welcome peace. And [they] say no to war in this country."

The delegation met President Hamid Karzai earlier in the week to present a plan that included a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign troops and the holding of fresh elections, according to a group spokesman.

In comments to RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan today, Hizb-e Islami spokesman Qaribul Rahman Saeed said the plan proposed that international troops first leave big cities, and then rural areas.

Saeed was asked how his group would guarantee Afghanistan would not lapse again into civil war following any such withdrawal.

Saeed said that the situation would be different from the aftermath of what he described as the "sudden" Soviet withdrawal more than 20 years ago and the subsequent fall of the "weak" Soviet-backed government.

"We have a system, Karzai is the president, that is why we said in our proposal that after the withdrawal, President Karzai and the Afghan parliament will remain in power till the next legal term for elections,” Saeed said. “Then we will have elections according to our proposal and we will have a newly elected government.”

He continued: “If the international troops accept and abide by our proposal and withdraw from the country according to the gradual timetable, then we will solve our internal problems through political debates and negotiations. And we will solve all our internal issues by coming together."

Saeed said his group hoped its proposal would be accepted. If not, he said, the war would "go on."

The U.S. State Department earlier this week said it supported the Afghan government's interest in reaching out to members of insurgent groups, but said they must renounce violence and have no ties to Al-Qaeda or other terrorist organizations.

RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan contributed to this report; with agency reports