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UN says Taliban will grant visas to diplomats to discuss detained aid workers

UN says Taliban will grant visas to diplomats to discuss detained aid workers

The Taliban authorities, who have detained several foreign nationals for allegedly attempting to propagate religion in Afghanistan, will grant visas to diplomats from the countries concerned, a United Nations spokesman announced today.

"The Taliban authorities have agreed today to grant visas to German, Australian and United States diplomats so that they can visit Kabul to discuss the case of eight foreign nationals who have been detained by the Taliban," spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva told reporters at UN Headquarters in New York.

According to the spokesman, the diplomats will be allowed to hold talks with Taliban officials in Kabul, but they will not have consular access to the detainees - four Germans, two Australians and two United States nationals working for the non-governmental organization (NGO) Shelter Now International. Those eight, and 16 Afghan staff, were arrested by the Taliban early last week.

The Secretary-General's Personal Representative for Afghanistan, Francesc Vendrell, who was in Afghanistan for previously scheduled meetings, discussed the matter over the weekend with the Taliban Deputy Justice Minister, the Taliban Deputy Foreign Minister and the Governor of Kandehar.

Mr. Vendrell "stressed the need for consular access to the eight international staff, but was told that such access was not possible until an investigation into allegations that the staff was proselytizing was completed," said Mr. de Almeida e Silva, adding that the UN envoy "was told the NGO staff were all in good health."