Taliban in Maldives for meeting

May 20, 2010 at 4:53 PM
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MALE, Maldives, May 20 (UPI) -- Taliban members have congregated at a secret location on the Maldives for talks with undisclosed emissaries, the Maldivian government confirmed Thursday.

"We cannot disclose the location of the talks, although we can confirm that they are not being held in Male or other population centers," an official government statement said.

Male is the capital of the small nation that consists of nearly 1,200 islands in the Indian Ocean off the southern tip of India.

ABC News, which reported the secret talks, said it was not clear who is meeting with the Taliban. The U.S. network said the Maldivian government said it wasn't involved. The Afghan government, which has been fighting Taliban insurgents for years, also said it wasn't participating.

The Maldivian government said its security and intelligence agencies are aware of the meeting, and none of the representatives are on "U.N. or other international travel blacklists."

"The Afghan government has told us that it is aware of the unofficial talks being reported today," U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said, "... and according to the Afghan government these talks do not include official representatives of the government of Afghanistan."

ABC said Crowley refused to say whether the United States approved of the contacts with the Taliban, though he said the United States was not involved in the talks. "The real question is what comes out of this," he said.

President Hamid Karzai has indicated an interest in negotiating with the insurgents, though the Obama administration has refrained from that strategy.

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