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1st meeting between Afghan leaders, Taliban cancelled


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Kabul:  The first meeting between the Taliban and Afghan government representatives on ending the 18-year-old war in the war-torn country has been cancelled over a delegation dispute, officials said on Friday.

The meeting alongside a US delegation, was to be held between Friday and Sunday in Qatar but the host country rejected a list of 250 participants submitted by Kabul, a statement from Afghan President Ashraf Gani's office said.

"After the Qatari government failed to accept our rightful demand (about the list of participants), it cancelled the Doha conference," the statement said.

The Afghan government said a non-government committee had prepared the list of participants who represented "all political and social movements and classes of the society" to attend the talks in Doha, reports Efe news.

However, Qatar prepared its own list, which was "non-inclusive", and did not represent the Afghan society, according to the Afghan government. 

"After all preparations were done for the travel of the delegation, ironically, last night a new unbalanced and non-inclusive list which was in a way dishonour to the will and decision of the Afghan nation was sent from Qatar. This action was not acceptable for the Afghan nation," the statement said.

According to the statement, political leaders urged the government of Qatar to accept the list of the Afghan delegation but Doha did not relent.

The list, which included 52 women, was announced on Wednesday to represent the Afghan government.

But the Taliban and other opponents of the government criticized it as being too extensive. The insurgents even made fun of the list, comparing it with wedding invitations. 

Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who led the country's delegation in an earlier dialogue held in Moscow, said in a statement that the Doha conference was "delayed, for now" and not cancelled. 

"Afghan people will soon gather (for) an intra-Afghan meeting to take stable steps for bringing peace and development to their people and country," he said.

The meeting was set to be the first opportunity for representatives of the government and the Taliban to have a direct dialogue about peace, after months of US efforts to persuade the insurgents to meet a delegation from Kabul.

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