Karzai meets South Korean envoy

Afghan president and South Korean envoy discuss fate of 22 hostages held by Taliban.

    Presidential Envoy Baek Jong-Chun has been in Kabul waiting to meet Karzai for days [AFP]

    Qari Mohammad Yousuf, a Taliban spokesman, told Al Jazeera his group's demands have not changed.

    "We have the same previous demands; the first is accepting to withdraw the Korean forces from Afghanistan," the spokesman said.


    "The second demand is still pending as the Afghan government delegation has said that it does not have the authority to release Taliban prisoners."

    No new deadline

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    "If anything happens to them, the Afghan government and the South Korean government will be responsible."

    Qari Yousef Ahmadi, Taliban spokesman


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    An Afghan team that was supposed to have held more talks with the Taliban on Saturday could not reach the group because of security concerns in Ghazni province, a provincial sources said.

    The team hoped to persuade the insurgents to free without condition the Christian volunteers.

    James Bays, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Kabul, said sources close to the negotiations had told him the Taliban saw no need for negotiations as their position has not changed over the 10 days and that the government had the list of prisoners they wanted released.

    However he said one piece of good news was that the Taliban had also seen no need to set a new deadline for their demands to be met.

    Kheir Muhammad Husseini, head of the mediators' delegation, told Al Jazeera: "Both parties are not serious."


    "The Taliban told me that it would give us a list of 24 names of its prisoners [held by the Afghan government]. However, it gave us eight names only."


    "The government showed co-operation at the beginning. However, it later retracted, asked for the full list and set the exclusion of the 'hardliners' as a condition," he said.

    Deteriorating health


    Bae Hyung-Kyu, far right, was allegedly 
    killed on Wednesday [AFP]

    All of the hostages are in bad health, Yousuf said on Saturday.

    "I don't know if the weather is not good for them or our food. The women hostages are crying. The men and women are worried about their future."

    "If anything happens to them, the Afghan government and the South Korean government will be responsible."

    A member of the government negotiating team said the release of prisoners was "out of discussion".


    Mahmood Gailani, an Afghani parliamentarian, said:

    "The government policy is very clear - not to release any prisoners ... We have not been given the mandate to exchange prisoners."

    Further demands

    The South Koreans were seized while travelling on the highway between Kabul and Kandahar on July 19 in Ghazni province about 140km south of Kabul.

    The aid mission was reportedly in the country to provide free medical services.

    The Taliban have also demanded that Seoul withdraw its 200 troops serving with US-led coalition forces in Afghanistan.

    South Korea responded by saying it would pull them out as previously scheduled by the end of the year.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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