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Friday, 26 October, 2001, 17:29 GMT 18:29 UK
Exiled warlord 'in talks with Taleban'
Taleban fighters
Hekmatyar wants to create an alliance with the Taleban
Former Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar has said he is in talks with both the Taleban and the opposition Northern Alliance on the creation of a united front to defend Afghanistan from the US-led military campaign.

The leaders of the Northern Alliance hoped for the collapse of the Taleban in the first days of the American attacks

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar
The head of the once-powerful Mujahedin party Hezb-e-Islami, who lives in exile in Tehran, is fervently opposed to the US military action.

"We are in negotiations with the Taleban, in Kabul, Kandahar, Baraki, Jalalabad, but also in Peshawar [in Pakistan] to create a united front. [Taleban leader] Mullah Omar is being kept up to date on the progress," he told French news agency AFP.

"We are also in contact with the Northern Alliance forces, with all those in the interior and exterior of Afghanistan, who are involved in the conflict."

No Taleban collapse

He did not explicitly name which opposition leaders he had contacted, but added: "The object of these discussions was to rally all those who want to defend our country.

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar
Hekmatyar: Laid siege to Kabul
"It is not a question of already distributing ministerial posts [in a post-Taleban government], or of who will control the region."

He claimed Hezb-e-Islami forces were still numerous in Afghanistan, especially in the provinces of Nangarhar, Lugar, Jalalabad and Bamian, but denied that he wanted to eventually take control of the country.

"The leaders of the Northern Alliance had hoped for the collapse of the Taleban in the first days, even the first hours, of the American attacks," he said.

"They have now understood that it was not that easy."

Kabul besieged

An ethnic Pashtun, Hekmatyar fought against Soviet occupation in the 1980s and then against his Tajik rival, the late Ahmed Shah Masood, when the communist government collapsed in 1992 and both factions entered Kabul.

Northern Alliance fighter
Hekmatyar said he was in contact with the Northern Alliance
Hekmatyar, who was excluded from the new Mujahedin government by President Burhanuddin Rabbani, lay siege to Kabul causing tens of thousands of civilian deaths.

Within two years he and Rabbani were forced to flee as the Taleban descended on Kabul.

Hekmatyar is yet another key Afghan figure to enter the fray. Before the start of the military campaign, he told the BBC that the US had no right to attack Afghanistan.

He said the Americans were wrong to blame Osama Bin Laden for the attacks in New York and Washington, and warned that he would oppose them.

The news follows unconfirmed reports that another former Mujahedin commander, Abdul Haq, has been executed by the Taleban after being caught in the east of Afghanistan.

See also:

24 Oct 01 | South Asia
Afghan powerbrokers: Who's who
17 Sep 01 | South Asia
Afghanistan - a tough military option
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