Taliban Warns of 'Bad Result' for Hostages if Demands Not Met

A purported Taliban spokesman on Tuesday said a meeting between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and U.S. President George W. Bush had "no result," and that militants' demands must be met if 21 South Korean hostages are to be safely released.

South Korean officials and Taliban militants will determine late Tuesday a location for their first face-to-face talks over the hostages' fate, said Gov. Marajudin Pathan, the leader in Ghazni province, where the Koreans were kidnapped.

The Taliban spokesman, Qari Yousef Ahmadi, said Bush and Karzai must accept Taliban demands that militant prisoners be released in exchange for the lives of South Korean hostages or there will be a "bad result."

The militants kidnapped 23 Korean aid workers traveling by bus from Kabul to Kandahar on July 19. Two male hostages have been executed.

Ahmadi said the Taliban's demands remain the same. "Bush and Karzai have to accept the Taliban conditions otherwise they will see a very bad result for Korean hostages," Ahmadi said.

The Afghan and U.S. presidents ruled out making any concessions to the Taliban militants during their meetings Sunday and Monday at Camp David, Maryland.

As the hostage drama moved into its 20th day, Pathan said South Korean officials and Taliban militants will agree on Tuesday evening on a meeting place. The two groups have been conducting talks over the phone for several days.

"We're expecting that tonight they will pinpoint the place where the discussions will take place," Pathan told The Associated Press in Kabul.

Pathan said that the meeting is likely to take place in Ghazni province, but could not provide any further details.

South Koreans Embassy officials were not immediately available to comment on the matter.

The Taliban have said they are ready for face-to-face talks even in government controlled territory, provided that the United Nations guarantees their delegation's safety.

In South Korea, relatives of the hostages expressed disappointment Tuesday that the presidential summit failed to produce concrete measures to bring the captives home.

"We could barely sleep while waiting for the results of the summit meeting, as we were full of such high hope and expectations that the release and safe return of our family members abducted there is up to the meeting of two leaders," said Cha Sung-min, a spokesman for relatives of the hostages, at their Saemmul Community Church in Bundang, south of Seoul.

"The result, however, turned out to be falling short of actively saving their precious lives," he said.

South Korean Foreign Minister Song Min-soon said the results of the summit were anticipated and cautioned that the country should be prepared for a protracted standoff, noting that other hostages in Afghanistan had been held an average of 35 days.

Song also said none of the captives were suffering from critical health problems.

"The hostages can't be perfectly healthy after nearly 20 days in captivity. In that sense, they are not healthy on the whole," Song told reporters, according to Yonhap news agency. "There has been no symptom of any of the hostages being critically ill."