Taliban banned

Meanwhile, the Pakistan government has decided to ban the so-called Pakistani Taliban after the group claimed responsibility for an attack on an arms factory that killed scores of people.

Rehman Malik, interior ministry chief, announced the decision on Monday, about 24 hours after rejecting a Taliban ceasefire offer in Bajur, a tribal region along the Afghan border where recent fighting has reportedly killed hundreds of people and prompted more than 200,000 to flee their homes.

"We have banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan because of their involvement in a series of suicide attacks," Malik said.

"They themselves have claimed responsibility of several suicide attacks and the government cannot engage in a dialogue with such people."

He said that the Pakistani Taliban, led by Baitullah Mehsud, were "creating mayhem" in th country.

Malik said the group had not been banned before because the provincial government was trying to negotiate with them.

The move is likely to be welcomed by the United States, which has urged Pakistan to crack down on armed groups in the northwest of the country.