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Taliban asked to close Karachi consulate

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- A day after warning the Taliban ambassador to stop disparaging other countries during regular press conferences, Pakistan has asked Afghanistan's rulers to close their consulate in the southern port city of Karachi.

Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman Aziz Khan did not give a reason for his government's decision.

"We have asked the Afghan embassy to recall its personnel from there ... except for caretaker staff," said Khan in a Thursday news conference.

"They have to be withdrawn, so naturally they have to go back to Afghanistan."

Taliban consulates in Quetta and Peshawar were not affected by the order to close the Karachi facility.

Pakistan announced Wednesday that it had invoked the "third country rule" against the Taliban's ambassador to Pakistan, Mullah Abdul Salem Zaeef, asking the ambassador to cease using his diplomatic status to malign other countries.

Under the rule, representatives of an embassy are not allowed to malign another country that has an embassy in Pakistan.

Taliban 'gagged'

CNN's John Vause says the Pakistani government has asked the Taliban not to hold press conferences maligning third-party governments (November 7)

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Taliban sources immediately condemned the decision, telling CNN that the request was an effective ban.

They 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.

But Khan denied that any such ban was in effect.

"I don't think that they can't communicate with the media," he said.

"Who has said that they can't communicate with the media? We have just reminded them of the third country rule."

Khan said also that diplomats should maintain a "sense of responsibility" along with the privileges that come with their position.

"For the umpteenth time ... he has been asked to observe the third country rule, which is speaking against any other country utilizing his diplomatic status while on Pakistani soil," Khan said.

Khan said the rule would be applied equally to U.S. Embassy personnel if they are found to be using diplomatic status to malign another country, including Afghanistan.


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