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Afghan Taliban Reject Proposed Islamic Scholars Conference

FILE - Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani, right, and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah.

The Afghan Taliban urged Islamic scholars on Tuesday not to let a proposed international religious congress become a means of legitimizing the Western-backed government in Kabul.

In a message sent to the "noble scholars of the Islamic World", the Taliban said its fighters were engaged in a jihad against Western invaders and the conference should not be allowed to be interpreted as support for the "aggressors".

"The transgressing enemy now wants to pacify the Jihadi uprising of the Afghan nation through misleading propaganda, psychological warfare, undercover plots, fake fatwas and other non-military tactics like peace processes," it said.

Afghan government Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah said during a visit to Riyadh last month that an Islamic scholars' conference on the situation in Afghanistan would be held in Saudi Arabia, although no firm date has been announced.

The Taliban statement said the proposals were backed by the Afghan government's High Peace Council as a cover to deny legitimacy to the insurgent movement.

"They want to present the sacred Jihad in Afghanistan which is on the brink of success as unlawful bloodshed which opposes the texts of Shariah and defames the name of Jihad," it said.

The message appears to put a dampener on hopes of reviving the stalled peace process which broke down last year almost immediately after preliminary talks began in Pakistan.

Since then, there have been various efforts to get the process started again, including a series of talks involving the United States, Pakistan, China and Afghanistan but none has so far had any success.

The Taliban has dismissed previous Islamic scholars' conferences in recent years, seeing them as instruments to grant legitimacy to the Kabul government and undermine its own position.