Afghan president meets SKorean envoy over hostages

A South Korean envoy on Sunday told Afghan President Hamid Karzai that Seoul would respect "any position" taken by his government over the Taliban's capture of 22 Koreans, Karzai's office said.

 Afghan president meets SKorean envoy over hostages
A South Korean envoy on Sunday told Afghan President Hamid Karzai that Seoul would respect "any position" taken by his government over the Taliban's capture of 22 Koreans, Karzai's office said.

Baek Jong-Chun, a senior adviser to South Korean President Roh Moo-Hyun, met Karzai amid growing concerns for the Christians captured on July 19 after the Taliban shot dead their leader, a pastor, last week.

A statement from Karzai's office quoted Baek as saying that Seoul was "well aware of the Afghan culture and the problems that the Afghan government is facing in the war.

The envoy also said "we respect any position that the Afghan government takes for solving the hostage case," a translation of the Dari-language statement said.

South Korean officials in Kabul would not comment on the meeting.

Karzai vowed in March his government would not free Taliban prisoners in exchange for hostages after five were released in March in exchange for the release of an Italian reporter in a widely criticised deal.

At the meeting, the Afghan president assured the envoy that his government was doing all it could to free the hostages, his spokesman told AFP.

"President Karzai said he was personally involved in the process and that we are doing everything we can to secure the release of all the hostages," Homayun Hamidzada said.

Baek, chief presidential secretary for foreign and security affairs, also received assurances from Afghan Foreign Minister Rangeen Dadfar Spanta, whom he met earlier Sunday.

"Dr Spanta said that we are doing everything possible to release the hostages safely and quickly," the minister's spokesman, Sultan Ahmad Baheen, told AFP.

Asked about a possible exchange of captives, he said: "Our position is the same as it was before. But at the same time we are considering all possibilities, like traditional values and other means."

Negotiators have demanded the Taliban release the 16 women in the group on the grounds that it is "un-Islamic" and against Afghan culture for women to be taken hostage.

The Taliban demands would be considered once the women are free, officials told AFP Sunday.

The Taliban said however it remained firm on its demand that eight of its men be released from jail before any of the hostages can be freed.

AFP
Güncelleme Tarihi: 29 Temmuz 2007, 16:39
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