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New Concern about Afghan Peace Prospects - 2001-09-11

Officials attending a U.N. conference in Geneva have expressed concern about an attempt to kill the leader of opposition forces in Afghanistan. Those attending the three-day meeting included representatives from non-warring factions in Afghanistan and diplomats from several nations.

The U.N. special envoy to the Geneva talks, Francesc Vendrell, says all those involved in the talks condemned the assassination attempt on Ahmad Shah Masood and emphasized the need for renewed efforts to bring peace to Afghanistan. "They stressed that, irrespective of events on the ground, a military solution was neither possible nor indeed acceptable and called for genuine negotiations leading to a durable ceasefire and a dialogue among all Afghan factions and groups in order to end the conflict in Afghanistan," he said.

The Geneva talks are part of an ongoing U.N. process designed to restore peace and security in Afghanistan. The Afghan representatives to the talks met with diplomats from the United States, Germany, Italy, and Iran.

Although no representatives from the Taleban, the group that rules most of Afghanistan, was involved in the talks, Mr. Vendrell says he is in close and regular contact with Taleban authorities.

But the U.N. envoy expressed his concern that Taleban forces have begun a new military offensive. He said, "I think that for the moment, they believe that they can achieve a victory in the field and that there is no need for them, at the moment at least, to consider the ideas put forward by the various groups and personalities."

Although the Taleban control more than 90 percent of Afghanistan, the United Nations still recognizes the opposition alliance and its official leader, President Burhanuddin Rabbani, as the country's legitimate government.