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US says no deal yet for Taliban Qatar office

US says no deal yet for Taliban Qatar office

WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday that Afghan and Taliban statements show there is support for a Taliban political office in Qatar, but said nothing has been concluded yet.

"Positive statements" from Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the Taliban demonstrate "there is support for such discussions, for the (Taliban) political office to open in Qatar," Clinton said.

"Nothing has been concluded. We are still in the preliminary stages of testing whether this can be successful," Clinton said in a press conference with Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani.

The Taliban announced last week that it planned to set up a political office in Qatar, a move seen as a precursor to peace talks with Washington.

At the same time, the hardline Islamists demanded the release of prisoners from the US military detention centre at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

Clinton said: "We have not made any decisions about releasing any Taliban from Guantanamo."

The chief US diplomat said Washington is prepared to back Afghan-led reconciliation talks.

She added that reconciliation can only occur if the Taliban renounces violence, breaks with Al-Qaeda and supports the Afghan constitution, which protects the rights of women and minorities.

"I have made it clear to President Karzai that we will work with him, under his leadership," she said.

She said she has dispatched US special regional envoy Marc Grossman to travel to Afghanistan next week to continue US consultations with the Afghans and also to visit Qatar to continue "consultations" there.

Sheikh Hamad, when discussing the proposal to open a Taliban office in his Gulf emirate, said "Qatar is trying to be peaceful messengers or peaceful ambassadors, and we are trying to do this with all our capacity.

"That's part of our policy how to defuse the tension in our region," said Sheikh Hamad, who is also Qatar's prime minister.

"And any opportunity we can help our friends to try to find a mutual ground to start a negotiation and dialogue, we think this is the best opportunity to solve the tension in our region," he added. (AFP)

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