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World - Middle East

Taliban, Iran hold talks

Graphic February 3, 1999
Web posted at: 5:51 a.m. EST (1051 GMT)

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (CNN) -- Iran and Afghanistan's Taliban have held groundbreaking talks in Dubai -- the first since they narrowly avoided armed conflict last year over the killing of eight Iranian diplomats and a journalist.

The official Iranian news agency confirmed the meeting took place on Tuesday and a local newspaper in Tehran carried a report Wednesday detailing an apparent improvement in relations.

It said Wakil Ahmad Mutawakil, a top spokesman of the Taliban, told the Iranian side that his militia, which controls 90 percent of Afghanistan, was committed to punishing the killers of the Iranian nationals.

In August last year, Taliban soldiers seized the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif. They then stormed the Iranian consulate in the city and killed eight diplomats and an Iranian journalist. They also took dozens of hostages.

The incident prompted Iran to deploy troops along their common border and for some weeks it appeared the two sides would go to war.

But mediation by the United Nations defused the situation and all the hostages were eventually released.

A subsequent U.N. report alleged alleged 4,000 to 5,000 people - many of them women and children - were killed after the Taliban took over the city.

The report from the U.N. Commission on Human Rights detailed mass killings of civilians in Mazar-i-Sharif, including executions, torture and mass suffocation of people crammed into metal containers left to simmer in the summer sun.

The Taliban has installed a strict brand of Islamic rule that forbids women from working outside the home.

Iran has long mistrusted the Taliban which comprises fundamentalist Sunni Muslims whereas Iran is predominantly a Shiite Muslim nation.

Tuesday's meeting in Dubai was prompted by a request from the Taliban.

The United Arab Emirates is one of only three countries to recognize the Taliban as Afghanistan's legitimate government. The others are Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.

In a separate development, a Taliban mouthpiece accused Israel and the United States of backing its key foe, opposition fighter Ahmed Shah Masood.

The Taliban-controlled newspaper Shariat said Masood "was distributing false reports about his military gains to keep happy his foreign masters such as the United States, Israel, India and Russia."

Masood's soldiers continue to hold out against Taliban advances and the comments in Shariat are believed to be the first time the United States and Israel have been named by the Taliban as his supporters.

Reuters contributed to this report.

Iran army forces parade near Afghan border
November 1, 1998
Iran reports clash with Afghan militia
October 8, 1998

Taliban Online
Iran Culture and Information Center
Islamic Republic News Agency - Iran<>BR Amu Darya - Afghanistan and the National Security of the Islamic Republic of Iran
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