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Afghan Taliban Denies NYT Report of Talks with Government

The Afghan Taliban is denying reports it has been talking with the Afghan government.

The New York Times is reporting President Hamid Karzai's government has been engaged in secret contacts with the Taliban without the involvement of the United States.

In an interview with VOA News, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid denied having met with the government, saying the claims were "baseless and made up by the Afghan government."

The spokesman said holding talks with the Karzai administration would be a waste of time while the Taliban maintains the country remains under foreign occupation.

Ismail Qasimyara, a spokesman for Afghanistan's High Peace Council, told VOA's Ashna TV he could not confirm or deny the talks. He added that the High Peace Council is the political lead of the peace process and national reconciliation and said he did not think any government official would try to derail it.

The Times quotes unnamed officials as saying the talks began in November and have yielded "no tangible agreement" nor progressed beyond opening negotiations.

According to the article, the "peace contacts" were initiated by the militant group.

It was around the time that Mr. Karzai decided to postpone the signing of a bilateral security deal with the United States, instead insisting on the release of hardline Taliban militants from Afghan prisons and distributing evidence of what he said were war crimes committed by the U.S.

The bilateral security agreement would allow about some U.S. and international troops to remain in the country after NATO withdraws by December.

Mr. Karzai has said his successor might complete negotiations after elections in April. The delay in signing the deal has strained relations between the U.S. and Afghanistan.

White House officials are meeting with top U.S. military officials Tuesday to discuss the future of the U.S. mission in the country.