21 Jun 2013

Afghan peace talks up the pole

12:39 pm on 21 June 2013

Efforts to start Afghanistan peace talks in Qatar are being frustrated by a row over the status of the newly opened Taliban office there.

After a rebuke from the Qataris, the Taliban removed a nameplate and flag from the office, only to hoist the white-and-black flag again on a shorter pole.

The United States has long wanted the talks, but Kabul says there has been a "breach of principles" in the initiative and it has accused the Americans of acting in bad faith.

"The manner in which the office was established was in clear breach of the principles and terms of references agreed with us by the US government," the Afghan foreign ministry says.

It adds that the Taliban have been presenting the office as an embassy - a move that Kabul says it cannot accept.

On Wednesday, US secretary of state John Kerry told President Hamid Karzai that the flag, and a nameplate including the words "Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan", would be removed - measures rejected as insufficient by Afghan officials.

Correspondents say the Qatar office means the Taliban are no longer only a fighting group but have a political arm too.

The BBC's correspondent in Qatar says the Taliban crave public legitimacy and they feel the opening of the office is a big success.

For its part, the Afghan government feels it did not get enough credit for its involvement in the talks process.