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S Korea Denies to Give Ransom to Taliban
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The South Korean government has never paid money to Taliban militants for the safe of South Korean hostages, said South Korean Presidential Spokesman Cheon Ho-seon on Friday.
Cheon made the remarks in response to a report by the weekly magazine Newsweek, which cited an alleged senior Taliban commander as saying that a Taliban group received money from South Korea after the kidnapping. It also reported that a South Korean envoy, a Ghazni member of Afghan parliament and some government negotiators may have been talking to the Taliban group.

"The Newsweek report is groundless," Cheon said.

"The South Korean government is not in a position to give a direct answer to the Taliban's demand that its prisoners be swapped for South Korean hostages. Through the direct contacts, we intend to stress that our capabilities to meet Taliban demands are limited," he added.

Taliban militants abducted 23 South Koreans on July 19, and have shot dead two of them so far. They threatened to execute the remaining if the Afghan government fails to meet their demand which includes the release of their eight Taliban comrades.

On Thursday, the United States said it may include the option of military force in its efforts to free South Korean hostages held by the Taliban militants in Afghanistan.

"All pressures need to be applied to the Taliban to get them to release these hostages," Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Richard Boucher said.

He said the United States will have cooperation with Afghanistan and South Korea "to get these people released unharmed, to get them released peacefully and safely."

Boucher declined to elaborate on what pressures or efforts were being used or considered but said they included the option of military force.

Boucher made the remarks ahead of a weekend visit by Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who will meet with US President George W. Bush at Camp David.

The coming US-Afghan summit is expected to discuss some issues of mutual interests including the war on terror, counter narcotics and the US contribution towards rebuilding of the post-Taliban Afghanistan.

In another development, the Taliban on Friday claimed that it had kidnapped an Indian engineer in Baghlan province of northern Afghanistan.

A local Taliban commander Bahlol said Taliban fighters abducted the Indian engineer, who was working at a local power project, on Thursday in Puli Khumri, the provincial capital.

The engineer has been brought to the central Ghazni province.

However, police chief in Baghlan and officials in Ghazni said they did not hear the alleged abduction.

(Xinhua News Agency August 3, 2007)

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