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Taliban rejects peace talks with Afghan government

Afghanistan's Taliban has said it will not take part in peace talks with the government unless foreign troops leave the country. The group also said it wanted detained members of its ranks to be freed.

The Taliban on Saturday denied reports that it would participate in the upcoming talks, dismissing them as "rumors."

A four-way group, with representatives of Afghanistan, China, Pakistan and the United States, had sought to broker talks in Islamabad early this month.

The so-called Quadrilateral Coordination Group

had wanted a direct dialog between Kabul and the Taliban to begin this week.

However, the Taliban said it would not take part while

US forces remain in the country

and amid escalating operations against it by Afghan forces.

"We reject all such rumors and unequivocally state that the leader of Islamic Emirate has not authorized anyone to participate in this meeting," a statement said.

"We want to repeat our stance once again that, until the occupation of foreign troops ends, until Taliban names are removed from international blacklists and until our detainees are released, talks will yield no results."

First step to peace

The group claimed that the United States has been boosting its troop numbers and carrying out night raids in residential compounds.

The Taliban announcement comes as a blow as senior Afghan government officials have characterized the meeting as the first real step in a peace process to end more than 14 years of war.

Direct talks between the Taliban and Kabul have been suspended since the announcement of the death of long-time Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar.

rc/sms (AP, AFP, Reuters)