Afghanistan's Taliban insurgents have demanded in negotiations with the U.S. that prisoners held in Guantanamo Bay be transferred to Qatar, an Afghan government spokesman said on Friday.

But President Hamid Karzai's government objects strongly to the move and wants the prisoners sent directly to Afghanistan, presidential spokesman Aimal Faizi told AFP.

The Taliban announced this week that it planned to set up a political office in Qatar, a move seen as a precursor to peace talks with Washington. At the same time, the hardline Islamists demanded the release of prisoners from the U.S. military detention centre at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba — but the statement did not specify where they should be sent.

Mr. Karzai was told by the U.S. about the demand that they should go to Qatar shortly before the Bonn meet on Afghanistan in December, Mr. Faizi said. Mr. Faizi said his government was in favour of a release of Guantanamo prisoners, “but we don't want them to go directly to Qatar — our government is strongly against it.” Mr. Karzai's government is concerned about being sidelined in the negotiations between the Taliban and the U.S., and Mr. Faizi stressed that it wanted “an Afghan-led transition.”

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