Alliance agrees to talks in Europe, Taliban hold on


Afghanistan's Northern Alliance said today it is ready to meet rival tribes this week in Europe to discuss the shape of a future government as the Taliban clung to their shrinking pockets of the country.

The Pentagon said he was still in the country.

Britain's Ministry of Defence said it could not confirm a newspaper report that British and US special forces had zeroed in on a spot in southeastern Afghanistan in the hunt for Bin Laden. "We have no confirmation of where he is", a spokesman said.

In Taskent, Alliance Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah said after meetings with Mr James Dobbins, US special envoy to the Afghan opposition, that the alliance was ready to hold talks outside Afghanistan - a request made by the United Nations.

From our view it could be this week. There is no obstacle as far as timing is concerned, he said.

Earlier, the Alliance wanted the talks held in the Afghan capital, Kabul, but the United Nations, which preferred a neutral location, said the alliance was obstructing efforts to arrange the crucial meeting.

There is no sign the Taliban were ready to withdraw from the powerbase they captured seven years ago from the mujahideen despite reports on Friday that they had done a deal on a withdrawal that would leave the city in the hands of fellow members of the ethnic Pashtun majority.

And they remain in the northern city of Kunduz where US warplanes sustained heavy bombardment.