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Alliance, Taliban end new talks on Konduz

A Northern Alliance tank guards Bangi Bridge between Takhor and Konduz provinces on Wednesday.  

MAZAR-E SHARIF, Afghanistan (CNN) -- Northern Alliance commanders and Taliban leaders ended a second round of talks here Thursday.

The talks followed discussions a day earlier in which the Taliban agreed to stop fighting in the northern city of Konduz.

Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, a top Northern Alliance commander, and Taliban Gen. Mullah Faizel, the assistant minister of defense, were to discuss the details of Wednesday's agreement, and how a possible handover of weapons and disarmament of Taliban soldiers would take place. There was no word on whether any agreement was reached in Thursday's talks.

Another issue on Thursday's agenda was the future of Taliban soldiers who surrender, especially the non-Afghan Taliban fighters from Pakistan, Chechnya and Saudi Arabia who Northern Alliance commanders have previously said would receive no amnesty.

If those fighters give themselves up, the Northern Alliance has said, they would be tried in Afghanistan and not be allowed to return to their own countries.

The United States has said it does not want any of the Taliban's international volunteers or suspected terrorists to be allowed to return to their home countries.

In talks Wednesday, Faizel said all the Taliban fighters in Konduz -- including the hard-line "foreign fighters" -- would no longer fight for Konduz, the last city still under Taliban control in northern Afghanistan.

For more than a week, the Northern Alliance has alleged that al Qaeda fighters and the non-Afghan troops fighting with the Taliban in Konduz have been killing local Taliban fighters who want to defect or surrender to the Northern Alliance.

The city has been the scene of heavy fighting in recent days, and many pro-Taliban fighters have pledged to fight until death there. The United States intensified its air campaign in the region in recent weeks.

Dostum also said he is negotiating with other officials about other Taliban-controlled areas in Afghanistan, including the southern stronghold of Kandahar, the Taliban's religious headquarters. He did not elaborate on those negotiations.

Taliban leaders in southern Afghanistan declared it their religious duty Wednesday to fight for Kandahar, where the fundamentalist movement began its systematic takeover of Afghanistan after the fall of the Soviet-backed communist regime in 1989.

Syed Tayyad Agha, the personal secretary to Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, said the Taliban had sufficient forces to defend the area around Kandahar.

A source close to the Taliban administrator in Kandahar, where the Taliban retreated after the fall of Kabul and other northern areas in the past two weeks, said there is pressure from al Qaeda on local Afghan Taliban fighters to stay loyal and not surrender.

The same source also said there is a flow of Taliban fighters heading south, starting to mass in and around Kandahar, a move that could embolden the hard-line, non-Afghan Taliban fighters in the city.

Leaders of Pashtun tribes, however, told CNN Taliban fighters around Kandahar were talking with tribal leaders about defecting.

Meanwhile, in Maidanshar, a town west of Kabul, the Northern Alliance is reporting fighting between troops under the command of a former Taliban commander and local residents. Previously, there had been talks between the commander and the Northern Alliance with the assistance of elders in the town.


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