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Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 May, 2005, 12:05 GMT 13:05 UK
Ex-Taleban chief to run in polls
Wakil Ahmad Mutawakil
Mr Mutawakil wants to stand in a former Taleban stronghold
The former foreign minister in Afghanistan's Taleban regime has said he wants to stand for parliament in September's national elections.

Wakil Ahmad Mutawakil told the election commission he wanted to run in Kandahar for a seat in the national lower house.

Mr Mutawakil's candidacy must be vetted but the government says it wants to rehabilitate certain Taleban figures.

Separately, the government has extended the nomination period for elections to Monday because of security concerns.

First interview

Mr Mutawakil filed his papers on Tuesday in Kandahar, a stronghold of the Taleban regime that was ousted by American-led coalition forces in late 2001.


Mr Mutawakil told the Associated Press: "I am an Afghan and I have the right to be an independent candidate. I am doing this for the sake of the people of Afghanistan.

"The Taleban are also Afghans. The public must decide who they want as their leaders, whether it's the Taleban or someone else."

Mr Mutawakil is the only major Taleban figure to have been arrested by the Americans and then released.

He was held for three years, first by the Americans and then under house arrest in Kabul.

Afghan elections
The Afghan presidential elections passed off relatively peacefully

Last week he gave the BBC his first interview with Western media since his release.

He was unapologetic about many aspects of Taleban rule, although he did admit that Osama Bin Laden and his followers had brought suffering to the country.

Mr Mutawakil also said he now approved of girls' education, so long as it was in keeping with Afghan culture.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has indicated that he wants rank-and-file Taleban fighters brought back into society, along with moderate leaders who renounce the continuing insurgency and support the government.

Some 2,787 candidates have so far put forward nominations for the lower house, or Wolesi Jirga, and provincial council elections, which will run at the same time.

However, the election body on Wednesday extended the nomination period, which began on 30 April, for three days - Saturday to Monday inclusive - because of "ongoing security problems" in the past week.

Nominations in eastern Nangarhar province will remain open till Thursday.

A total of 249 seats are available in the lower house, voted for by a 10.5m-strong electorate.

Hardline Taleban insurgents vowed to disrupt last year's presidential elections but a massive security drive ensured they passed off fairly peacefully.

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