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Afghanistan’s Warring Factions Open Talks on Cease Fire

November 7, 1996

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) _ Afghanistan’s warring factions met face-to-face today at a U.N. office in Pakistan, but failed to resolve the differences that are threatening to turn Kabul into another bloody battlefield.

Mohammed Ghous, foreign minister of the Taliban religious army that overran the Afghan capital in September, sat across the negotiation table from a representative of Afghanistan’s northern warlord, Rashid Dostum.

``If I say it was a good meeting it doesn’t mean it was an easy meeting. It was not an easy meeting,″ U.N. peace envoy Norbert Holl told reporters after the meeting.

``It was a landmark,″ said Holl. ``We managed to invite both sides under the auspices of the U.N. to come together.″

But the two sides are still far apart on the critical question of a cease-fire, he said.

Dostum’s representative, identified only as Gen. Piandah, reiterated demands that the Taliban withdraw from southern Kandahar, 240 miles from Kabul, before a cease-fire.

The Taliban has refused, and insisted that Dostum and his allies first withdraw their troops, now 10 miles north of Kabul, to Mazar-e-Sharif, 180 miles north.

``At this phase of the bargaining each party is putting their stakes as high as possible,″ Holl said.

But, he said ``there are indications that we can bring them together ... at least much closer than they are now.″

Holl said a U.N.-sponsored meeting on Afghanistan will be held in New York on Nov. 18.

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