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New Hostage Deadline Set in Afghanistan

Taleban-linked militants who are holding three U.N. workers hostage in Afghanistan say their captives' lives depend on whether the Kabul government can reach an agreement Monday on the kidnappers' demands.

A spokesman for the militant group Jaishul Muslimeen told reporters in Kabul that the Afghan government has until one hour before midnight (1830 UTC) to win the hostages' release.

If there is no agreement by that hour, the militants say they will not be responsible for anything that happens to the hostages.

The kidnappers, who call themselves the Army of Muslims, have demanded the release of 26 Taleban prisoners currently in U.S. custody. They seized the hostages -- two women from Kosovo and Northern Ireland and a man from the Philippines -- in Kabul almost three weeks ago.

The kidnappers have threatened several times to kill the U.N. workers who were in Afghanistan working on the country's recent election, but each of several deadlines has expired without bloodshed.

Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.