Afghanistan bans Pakistani newspapers

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By AMIR SHAH, Associated Press

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghanistan banned all Pakistani newspapers from entering the country on Friday in an attempt to block the Taliban from influencing public opinion via the press.

The order, issued by the Ministry of Interior, adds to the mounting tension between the neighboring countries.

It focuses specifically on blocking entry of the papers at Torkham, a busy border crossing, and directed border police to gather up Pakistani newspapers in the three eastern provinces of Nangarhar, Kunar and Nuristan.

In a statement, the ministry said the newspapers were a conduit for Taliban propaganda.

"The news is not based in reality and it is creating concerns for our countrymen in the eastern provinces of Afghanistan," the ministry said in a statement. "Also, the newspapers are a propaganda resource of the Taliban spokesmen."

The tensions between the two countries were highlighted Thursday at a U.N. Security Council meeting, when Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul called on Pakistan to stop shelling in the border province of Kunar, which he said has killed dozens of civilians. He said the attacks were jeopardizing bilateral relations "with potential negative consequences for necessary bilateral cooperation for peace, security and economic development in our two countries and the wider region."

Many Pakistani Taliban fighters have fled to Kunar and surrounding areas after Pakistan's army pushed them out of its tribal region, taking advantage of the U.S. military's withdrawal of most of its forces from these Afghan border provinces in recent years.

In an interview on Thursday with The Associated Press, Pakistan's foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar said that her country would soon hold confidential talks with the United States and Afghanistan to improve a three-way counterterrorism relationship beset by misunderstandings.

She told the AP that senior officials from the three countries have been instructed to come up with a strategy for repairing cooperation that has suffered since U.S.-Pakistani relations collapsed a year and half ago. A key element of the talks will be to determine which militant groups can be persuaded to lay down their arms as part of an Afghan peace treaty — a crucial if so far lagging part of the U.S. strategy to stabilize the country as it withdraws forces over the next two years.

Separately in Afghanistan, five civilians were killed and eight others were wounded Friday in Naway district of Helmand province in southern Afghanistan, according to district police chief Ahmad Shah Khan Pupal. Two children and three men were among the dead.

NATO reported that two service members with the international military alliance in Afghanistan died Friday of non-battle related injuries in the south. NATO did not provide details about the deaths or the nationality of the service members who died.

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