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Thursday, 5 April, 2001, 18:55 GMT 19:55 UK
Anti-Taleban leader calls for support
Ahmed Shah Masood (right) at European Parliament
Mr Masood's visit has angered the Taleban authorities
The Afghan opposition military commander, Ahmed Shah Masood, has urged the European Parliament to press Pakistan into ending its support for the Taleban religious regime.

I consider this a turning point, or a new phase in the situation in Afghanistan

Ahmed Shah Masood
The European Union assembly invited Mr Masood in a sign of growing Western exasperation with the Taleban militia.

On his first visit to the West, Mr Masood met the president of the European Parliament Nicole Fontaine on Thursday.

He was scheduled to travel to Brussels on Friday, for talks with the EU's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana.

His reception in Europe has angered the Taleban authorities who accused the EU of promoting fighting in their devastated country.

I will solemnly ask Pakistan to stop supporting a regime which because of its fanatical views is a threat to international society

Nicole Fontaine
"The people of Afghanistan are ready to resist and to defend our land, but this requires support," Mr Masood told a news conference at the European Parliament.

"The strengthening of the resistance against the Taleban will provide the opportunity for a peaceful settlement and make Taleban think peace rather than continued war," he added.


Ms Fontaine said she would be pressing Pakistan over its backing for the Taleban.

"I will solemnly ask Pakistan to stop supporting a regime which because of its fanatical views is a threat to international society" she said.

Opposition fighter in Afghanistan
Masood controls a sliver of territory in Afghanistan
The BBC's correspondent in Strasbourg, Justin Webb, says the European Parliament has very little power to influence the foreign policies of the European Union's member governments, but it does provide an important forum for debate.

Meanwhile, Afghanistan's ruling Taleban complained on Thursday that European support for Mr Masood will merely prolong Afghanistan's civil war.

"To invite him personally for this meeting is a tyranny against the Afghan people," Taleban Deputy Interior Minister Haji Mullah Khaksar said.

And he added: "They will give him the orders to fight more and that will cause the conflict to drag on."

Last month, the Taleban militia was strongly criticised by nations worldwide for destroying ancient Buddhist statues.

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See also:

04 Apr 01 | South Asia
France welcomes Afghan rebel
19 Mar 01 | South Asia
Footage shows Buddhas blast
14 Feb 01 | South Asia
UN warns of Afghan catastrophe
16 Sep 00 | South Asia
Afghan war threatens region
03 Aug 98 | South Asia
Afghanistan: 20 years of bloodshed
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