Taliban says no plans to kill hostages before meeting with Korean delegation

Other News Materials 10 August 2007 13:05 (UTC +04:00)

( AP ) - The Taliban said Friday it will not kill any of the 21 remaining South Korean hostages it is holding until planned face-to-face meetings have been held with a delegation from the East Asian country.

The captors have repeatedly threatened to kill more of the captives they seized July 19 if their demands are not met, though negotiations appear to have bogged down in recent days.

Taliban and South Korean officials have agreed they want to meet for talks to break the deadlock but have not been able to agree on a location both sides consider safe.

Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi said negotiations on a location were continuing by phone.

"Until we sit for face-to-face negotiations with the Koreans, we have no plans to kill any Korean hostages," Ahmadi said.

The South Korean government issued guidelines for its aid organizations saying they must leave Afghanistan by the end of the month for safety reasons, a South Korean Embassy official said on condition of anonymity due to policy.

Last month, the government banned its citizens from travelling to Afghanistan.

Authorities will decide whether they can return to the country after "the situation settles down," the official added.

Ahmadi said the departure of South Korean aid workers would move forward negotiations with the Taliban.

"The pulling out of Korean aid workers will have an effect on our negotiation process because pulling out of Koreans from Afghanistan is part of our demand. It will have a positive effect," he said, without elaborating.

The 23 South Koreans were abducted July 19 in the Qarabagh district Ghazni province as they travelled by bus from Kabul to the southern city Kandahar. Two of the captives have been executed by the Taliban.

There has not been a breakthrough in negotiations more than three weeks into the hostage ordeal. Afghan authorities say talks with the Taliban, who have demanded the release of Taliban prisoners, are the best way to resolve the problem.

The captives - volunteers from a church group who planned to do health work in Afghanistan - include 16 women and five men.