Afghan government rejects talks with divided Taliban

Kabul - The Afghan government said it would not negotiate with divided factions of the Taliban as the insurgents face differences over its leadership succession.

The administration "will negotiate with them under the same title" of "armed anti-government militants", President Ashraf Ghani's office said in a statement late on Sunday.

A second round of talks was set for Friday, but postponed after news broke of the death of Taliban leader Mullah Omar.

The movement declared Mullah Omar's successor to be former deputy leader Mullah Akhtar Mansoor. But the late leader's family declined to pledge allegiance, requesting instead that the next chairperson be chosen by Islamic scholars and group elders.

Mullah Mansoor did not have the support of the group's wider membership, said Mullah Abdul Manan, the youngest brother of Mullah Omar.

"We have not pledged allegiance to anyone," Manan said in an audio message emailed to the media on Sunday.

"We want the Ulema to resolve the internal differences instead of taking sides," he said, referring to a group of Muslim scholars.

The government also warned it "will stand... against any parallel political structure in the country".

The Taliban have established provincial shadow administrations, and earlier talks broke down when the group's office in Qatar was perceived as taking on the character of a diplomatic mission.

Mansoor was the aviation minister when the Taliban ruled the country, and he had been acting as Taliban deputy leader for four years.

Two Taliban sources told dpa that Mansoor had been approved by the Taliban's leadership council as the next emir, but some within the council and many of the wider membership opposed the move.

In his first released audio message, Mansoor called on his fighters to continue the fight to establish an Islamist state.

"Our unity will defeat our enemies," he said in the message emailed to reporters by Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid.

The fundamentalist Taliban ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001 with a strict interpretation of Islamic law. They were toppled in a US-led invasion following the September 11 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.

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