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Afghan Govt: Vote 1st, Then Peace Deal 09/14 08:51

   The Afghan government will only consider making a "legitimate" peace with 
insurgents after national elections are held this month, an official told 
reporters on Saturday, despite the atmosphere of political uncertainty 
following the sudden halt in U.S.-Taliban peace talks.

   KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- The Afghan government will only consider making a 
"legitimate" peace with insurgents after national elections are held this 
month, an official told reporters on Saturday, despite the atmosphere of 
political uncertainty following the sudden halt in U.S.-Taliban peace talks.

   President Donald Trump abruptly called off talks to end American's longest 
war last week. The Afghan government was largely shut out of the negotiations 
and concerned that any finalized U.S.-Taliban deal would delay the elections 
while a national unity government was formed, forcing the exit of President 
Ashraf Ghani.

   "Nothing will impede the presidential election from happening," said the 
Afghan presidential spokesman, Sediq Seddiqi.

   He said that a peace deal with the Taliban could only come after holding the 
presidential election scheduled for Sept. 28. "Legitimacy of peace cannot be 
achieved without elections," he said.

   Sediqqi also suggested that there will be a "big change" toward improving 
security across the country ahead of the voting and fears over more violence. 
The Taliban, who consider the Afghan government a U.S. puppet, have warned 
Afghans not to vote and that polling stations will be targets.

   Sediqqi pointed to a Taliban delegation's visit to Russia, just days after 
Trump called off talks, to say the insurgents are faced with a "political 
failure" of their own. He added that the Taliban should hold talks directly 
with the Afghan government --- which they have refused to do --- rather than 
foreign powers.

   On Friday, a Taliban negotiating team visited Russia, where they held 
consultations with Zamir Kabulov, President Vladimir Putin's envoy for 
Afghanistan.

   The Interfax news agency cited an unidentified Russian Foreign Ministry 
spokesman as saying the meeting underlined the necessity of renewing talks 
between the U.S. and the Taliban, and that the Taliban confirmed their 
readiness to continue dialogue with Washington.

   It was the Taliban's first international visit following the collapse of 
talks with Washington. The team was led by Mullah Sher Mohammad Stanikzai.

   Moscow has twice this year hosted meetings between the Taliban and prominent 
Afghan personalities.

   Sediqqi said that the Afghan government has suspended its own peace efforts 
for now. After the elections, the "progress of the peace process" would be a 
priority, he said.

   Separately in eastern Kapisa province, a bomb killed at least three 
civilians who had gathered to watch a volleyball game, said Nasrat Rahimi, 
spokesman for the Interior Ministry.

   Rahimi added that two other civilians were wounded when Friday's blast 
occurred in the Tagab district. No group immediately claimed responsibility.

   Also in southern Kandahar province, in an insider attack, two policemen 
turned on their colleagues and shot dead at least nine police officers at a 
checkpoint, according to a provincial official who spoke on condition of 
anonymity, because he was not authorized to talk to media.

   The attack happened in the Shah Wali Kot district late on Friday night and 
both attackers fled the area, the official said.

   A Taliban spokesman, Qari Yusouf Ahmadi, claimed responsibility for the 
attack.


(KR)

 
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