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Afghanistan bans Pakistani newspapers

Afghanistan has banned all Pakistani newspapers over what security officials say are pro-Taliban publications aimed at undermining the government.

Afghanistan's move to block Pakistani newspapers from entering the country is likely to worsen already strained relations between the two neighboring countries.

"The Afghan government decided to ban all Pakistani newspapers in Afghanistan," government spokesperson Sayed Ihsanuddin Taheri said.

"In recent months Pakistani newspapers have started an anti-Afghan government campaign, especially in the eastern provinces."

Articles in the papers, Taheri said, "target Afghan forces" and call into question the role of NATO-led allies "occupying" the country, rather than offering security support.

"The papers print Taliban propaganda, question the presence of foreign troops in Afghanistan and run an anti-government campaign."

Some papers, he added have gone as far as publishing speeches by Taliban insurgency leaders at a time, he said, when the government is trying to persuade Taliban insurgents to participate in peace talks in a bid to end the 11-year Afghan war.

"We totally reject these statements and the ban is to show them this," Taheri said.

The ban, which has been enforced across the country, can only be lifted by a ministerial decree.

The papers will be blocked at border crossings with Pakistan in the eastern provinces of Nangarhar, Kunar and Nuristan.

Border police have started confiscating the Pakistani published newspapers from retailers and newspaper stands in the Nangarhar province, Taheri said.

Relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan have been strained in recent months as cross-border shelling continues, which officials in Kabul say the Pakistani military is responsible for.

The eastern area of the country has come under the spotlight as international and Afghan security operations fight insurgents ahead of NATO's withdrawal of most combat troops by 2014.

Afghanisatan's Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul told the United Nations Security Council in New York on Thursday that diplomatic relations with Pakistan were under strain.

jlw/kms (AFP, Reuters)