KABUL – The Taliban on Saturday denied reports that their representatives met with a U.N. official to discuss prospects for peace in Afghanistan, calling them "futile and baseless" rumors.
The U.N. in Afghanistan has not confirmed the meeting between the Taliban and the world body's local chief, Norwegian diplomat Kai Eide.
But U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Eide, who is leaving his post within weeks, wanted to "get his own conclusion about the mindset of some of the Taliban members."
"The (Taliban) Leadership Council considers this mere futile and baseless rumors," a statement e-mailed to news organizations said of the reported meeting. "The Leadership Council once again emphasizes continuation of Islamic jihad against all invaders as a mean to frustrate these conspiracies."
Afghan President Hamid Karzai told a conference on Afghanistan in London on Thursday that he would offer jobs and homes to Taliban fighters willing to renounce violence and would reach out to leaders of the hardline Islamic movement.
The Afghan leader will convene a peace jirga — or conference — to bring together Afghan leaders, members of civil society groups and clerics.
U.S. officials have endorsed plans to offer peace to low and mid-level Taliban fighters but remain skeptical of entering into deals with Taliban leaders, who harbored Osama bin Laden. The Taliban refusal to hand over bin Laden after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the U.S. triggered the Afghan war.
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