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Taliban Flag, Sign Removed, Afghanistan Confirms

Taliban with weapons

The Afghan government confirmed the removal of a flag and sign at the Taliban office in Qatar it had demanded before taking part in peace talks.

The peace talks were to be held among U.S., Afghan and Taliban officials in Doha, Qatar, but the Afghan government had strongly objected to the flag and a sign referring to the newly opened Taliban office in Doha as the "Political Office of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan."

On Sunday, the Afghan government, which had earlier refused to take part in the peace talks, said the flag, the sign and the flag pole had come down.

"According to the timely and appropriate and precise position of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, the Taliban flag has been brought down from the office, the Islamic Emirate sign has been removed and the Qatari police removed the flagpole from the Taliban office," an Afghan presidential palace statement quoting Masoom Stanekzai, a senior member of the Afghan High Peace Council, said.

However, it was not clear if the latest development would encourage Afghanistan to send its official delegation to Qatar for the peace talks, which were to have started last week, The New York Times reported.

The U.S. newspaper said the Afghan boycott of the talks over the flag and the sign had led to intense diplomatic negotiations to save the peace talk effort.

"We will work very hard to recover the promise of the office," a Western official in Kabul who is close to the talks told the Times.

U.S. negotiator James Dobbins was in Doha Sunday, but the newspaper said it was not known if he and the Taliban were talking.

"We need to see if we can get back on track," The Washington Post quoted U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry as saying Saturday while in Qatar to attend a conference on Syria. "I don't know if that's possible or not. If there is not a decision to move forward by the Taliban in short order, then we may have to consider whether or not the office has to be closed."

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