August 21, 2007 / 11:38 AM / 12 years ago

South Korea wants more time for hostages talks: Taliban

SPIN BOLDAK, Afghanistan (Reuters) - South Korea has asked Taliban kidnappers for more time in talks over the fate of the remaining 19 Korean hostages held in Afghanistan, a Taliban spokesman said on Tuesday.

South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun (3rd R) speaks to officers as he visits the Foreign Ministry to discuss the situation of its citizens kidnapped by the Taliban in Afghanistan, in Seoul, August 19, 2007.REUTERS/Park Chang-ki/Yonhap

Talks between Taliban and Korean negotiators are deadlocked over the 19 hostages the Taliban kidnapped more than a month ago.

The Taliban have already killed two of the male hostages and are threatening to kill the rest if the Afghan government does not free jailed rebel prisoners.

After talks last week, the Taliban freed two female captives as a gesture of goodwill, but little progress has been made since.

Korean negotiators have stressed they have no power to persuade Kabul to free Taliban prisoners and that it is a matter for the Afghan government to decide.

“The Korean delegation has said they are making all efforts to make the American and the Afghan governments agree on the release of Taliban prisoners,” said Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman.

Korean negotiators could be reached immediately for comment.

After coming under sharp criticism for freeing jailed Taliban members in return for the release of an Italian journalist, the Afghan government has ruled out any deal.

Mujahid said the U.S. and the Afghan governments were the biggest obstacles to the release of Korean hostages.

He said the Taliban would not release the hostages unless their jailed comrades were also set free.

The Afghan government has said it would use force to free the hostages if talks between the Taliban and Koreans fail. The Taliban have split the hostages into several groups and warned that any such move would put the lives of the captives at risk.

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