The Taliban religious militia which holds most of Afghanistan Sunday urged the summit meeting of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) to give them the country's suspended membership.
In a statement coinciding with the opening of the 55-nation summit in Qatar, Taliban Information Minister Qudratullah Jamal asked the OIC to be "fair" to the Islamic militia by giving it Afghanistan's seat.
"Not only this, but all the international seats of Afghanistan should be given to the Islamic Emirate (of Taliban) as its legitimate right," Jamal said.
Jamal claimed the Taliban militia enjoys popular support and had brought security to the areas under its control.
Qatar has invited Taliban Foreign Minister Wakil Ahmad Mutawakel and a representative of the ousted Afghan regime of former president Burhanuddin Rabbani to participate in the Doha summit as observers, Qatari officials said.
Mutawakel is lobbying to seek Afghanistan's OIC seat, Jamal said.
OIC suspended Afghanistan's membership in late 1996 after the Taliban drove the Rabbani government out of Kabul.
The Taliban administration is recognized only by Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, while most countries continue to maintain ties with Rabbani whose ousted regime also holds Afghanistan's UN seat.
The Rabbani-led opposition groups holding northeastern provinces also demanded the OIC seat.
"We want our country's seat be reinstated back to the legitimate government of Afghanistan," an opposition spokesman Abdullah (eds: one name) said on the eve of the summit.
"It should be given back to us as we hold Afghanistan's United Nations seat as well as its political missions overseas," he said.
Jamal said the opposition could not represent the Afghan people.
"They want everything. But the world should see who can better represent the country," he added.
The OIC has made efforts to end fighting between the Taliban troops and opposition forces led by ex-defense minister Ahmad Shah Masood in northern Takhar province bordering Tajikistan.
Earlier this year it arranged proxy talks between the warring sides in the Saudi Arabian city of Jeddah but failed to stop the fighting -- KABUL (AFP)
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