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Taliban warned over press briefings

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- The Taliban ambassador to Pakistan has been asked by the Pakistani Foreign Office not to hold press conferences that malign a third country, said Aziz Khan, a spokesman for Pakistan's foreign minister.

Pakistan's Foreign Office said there is no ban on the Taliban's embassy holding press conferences, but they must observe what officials call the third country rule. Under the rule, representatives of an embassy are not allowed to malign another country that has an embassy in Pakistan.

But Taliban Ambassador Mullah Abdul Salem Zaeef told CNN the Taliban embassy can no longer hold press conferences because of Pakistani government restrictions.

Speaking at a dinner for senior Pakistani journalists, Zaeef said the Taliban might use Jalalabad or another Afghan city as alternate cities for news conferences. The foreign office said Zaeef noted Pakistan's concern, but the ambassador did not respond to the request. Pakistan is the only country to recognize the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan.

Taliban sources told CNN that the request is really a ban, and said they "are not allowed by the Pakistani government to speak with radio, television or print either in press conferences or one-on-one interviews."

The order is "suffocating the words of the Afghan people," the Taliban sources said.

The Taliban press conference, held almost daily in Islamabad, is well attended by news organizations-- often with more than 40 television cameras present.

The embassy did not hold a press conference Wednesday, saying the ambassador was not feeling well.

Zaeef also told the journalists that there are no training camps for the al Qaeda terrorist network inside Afghanistan, and went on to say that the United States "might use nuclear weapons if they continue to fail as they are."

A few Muslim countries are in touch with the Taliban and have offered support, Zaeef said, but he refused to say who they were.

He thanked the Pakistani people who have been cooperating with the Taliban. Zaeef also said that two Northern Alliance commanders have joined the Taliban, but he would not disclose who they were or what part of the country they were in.

CNN's Kieran Baker and Allison Flexner contributed to this report.


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