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Afghan leader says no more deals on kidnap victims

KABUL (Reuters) - Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Friday ruled out any more deals with the Taliban to free foreigners or Afghans kidnapped by the insurgents.

He told a news conference at his fortified palace in Kabul that he came under pressure from Rome to approve the release of five rebels last month in return for the freedom of a kidnapped Italian journalist.

Since that deal, the Taliban have kidnapped two French aid workers and their three Afghan guides, and also hold the translator of the Italian reporter as well as five health ministry officials.

Karzai said he approved the deal for the Italian reporter after a request from Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi.

"Afghanistan had a profound compulsion with regard to the release of the Italian journalist," Karzai said, noting that 1,800 Italian troops were in Afghanistan as part of a NATO force and that Italy was building a key highway project in the country.

"It was because of a special compulsion, although we fully knew of its consequences."

But he added: "This act will not be repeated in anyone's case, with no one, and there will be no favour to any country... it is not possible."

Italian Daniele Mastrogiacomo, who works for daily La Repubblica, was freed last month in exchange for the release of five Taliban officials, a move that drew criticism and raised fears that the Taliban would resort to more kidnappings.

The resurgent Taliban kidnapped the journalist along with his translator and driver from southern Helmand province last month.

The Taliban killed the driver, but still hold the translator.

Karzai said efforts were underway to free the translator. He did not elaborate.

Days later, the Taliban kidnapped five Afghan health officials and then two French aid workers, along with three Afghans.

The Taliban have demanded the release of some of their members in return for the freedom of the health officials, but have not made any demand with regard to the two French nationals and their Afghan companions.

Date posted: April 6, 2007 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 15