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Anti-Taliban forces wait inside Afghanistan, talk in Germany

U.N. envoy to Afghanistan Lakhdar Brahimi, left, welcomes delegate Mohammad Nazar Mohammad during the fourth day of talks in Bonn, Germany.  

(CNN) -- Anti-Taliban forces waited for political and military breakthroughs on Friday, as U.S. warplanes stepped up their airstrikes on Kandahar and talks about Afghanistan's future continued near Bonn, Germany.

Late Friday, the Northern Alliance pledged to produce a list of its candidates for an interim Afghan government by Saturday, paving the way for possible progress after a day of little movement in Koenigswinter. (Full story)

In Afghanistan, alliance forces continued to consolidate their gains as anti-Taliban Pashtun fighters set up around Kandahar, poised to attack or coordinate a surrender of the last major city still under Taliban control.

With the threat of a ground offensive looming, Kandahar was the target Friday of continued heavy U.S.-led airstrikes, according to CNN sources. The sources heard no small arms fire in the city, indicating Kandahar was not under ground attack.

About 70 miles southwest of the city, a battalion-sized force of U.S. Marines -- equipped with a growing number of weapons and supplies -- awaited orders at their newly-established base. (Full story)

Meanwhile, the Taliban said they had arrested three or four people suspected of targeting sites in Kandahar for allied bombing runs. And in an apparent move to show they are still in control of the city, the Taliban were burning music cassettes and CDs in a Kandahar sports stadium. The Taliban have a long-standing ban on music and television, but this was the first time since U.S.-led airstrikes began in early October that their rules have been enforced.

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Latest developments

• U.S. officials will oppose any surrender agreement for the Taliban bastion at Kandahar that allows Taliban leader Mohammed Omar to escape, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Friday. (Full story)

• Attorney General John Ashcroft suggested Friday that critics of some the administration's policies in the war on terrorism are in the minority and he accused them of "eagerly assuming the worst of their government." Speaking at an awards ceremony for law enforcement agencies, Ashcroft defended the administration's efforts as deliberate, coordinated and "carefully crafted to not only protect America, but to respect the Constitution."

• The White House said Friday the timing is not right for a multinational peacekeeping force to enter Afghanistan now, and signaled that when a peacekeeping mission begins, U.S. troops are not likely to take part.

• The number of refugees fleeing the Afghan border town of Spin Boldak has nearly tripled in the past few days, the United Nations high commissioner for refugees said Friday.

• Afghanistan reopened the key Torkham border crossing into Pakistan, Pakistani provincial authorities told CNN Friday. The Khyber Pass crossing point was closed Wednesday after tensions mounted over Pakistan's attempts to construct a six-foot, barbed-wire fence to stop the flow of traffic. Construction of the fence will continue.

• Two Australian aid workers said Friday they held no grudge against the Taliban for detaining them for three months on charges of promoting Christianity. "I feel sorry that many of the Taliban are dying," Diana Thomas told reporters in the western Australian city of Perth. "The Taliban treated us very nicely."

• The Northern Alliance says it will let rights group Amnesty International probe the deaths of several hundred captured pro-Taliban fighters who staged a revolt at a jail in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e Sharif. (Full story)

• More than 50 U.S. Army troops from the 10th Mountain Division have been deployed to an airfield near Bagram, Afghanistan, to provide security so that the airfield may be used in the future for military operations, Pentagon officials told CNN Thursday.


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