Rebels Assault Kunduz; Talks in Doubt

"There will be peace," Faizal told a Reuters television correspondent who was one of several reporters allowed to enter the room where negotiations were being held with Northern Alliance commander Abdul Rashid Dostum.

Another Northern Alliance commander, Atta Mohammed, told The Associated Press by satellite telephone from Mazar-e-Sharif that the Taliban surrender came late Thursday afternoon Afghanistan time in a meeting with top Taliban commanders.

"We told them, `You are safe. We can transfer you to your provinces,'" Mohammed said.

Mohammed's spokesman Ashraf Nadeem told The Associated Press that 5,000 Northern Alliance troops would be sent to the city to oversee the surrender and to take the foreigners into custody.

One of the points that reportedly has stalled the talks was the Taliban demand that they surrender only to U.N. forces, not to Dostum's troops, who consist mainly of members of Afghanistan's Uzbek, Tajik and Hazara minorities. Most of the Taliban soldiers are Pashtun, the ethnic majority in Afghanistan.

Shamsulhaq Orienfad, a Northern Alliance spokesman in Dushanbe, said that under the terms of the agreement, the Afghans fighting for the Taliban would be allowed to return home once they had turned over their arms. He added, however, that "the Arab, Pakistani and Chechen mercenaries will be put before a court."

The Northern Alliance launched another offensive on Thursday, trying to take the town of Maidan-Shahr, west of Kabul, where negotiations for a surrender of Taliban forces also failed, ABCNEWS has learned.

There are about 1,200 Taliban soldiers in the town, but Northern Alliance commanders said they believe they will capture the area by Saturday.

Shaving Beards, Changing Clothes

Some of the refugees fleeing Kunduz on Wednesday told ABCNEWS' Don Dahler that Taliban soldiers are shaving their beards, throwing away any clothes that could identify them and fleeing the city.

Even though the Taliban hold only one other city, Kandahar, and four surrounding provinces in southern Afghanistan, the commander of the U.S. military operation dampened expectations for a quick, complete end to the war.

"We still have a lot of work to do," Gen. Tommy Franks, the commander of the U.S. military operation in Afghanistan, said on Wednesday.

In other developments:

Pakistan has closed the Taliban embassy in Islamabad, leaving the Afghanistan regime without ties to a single nation. A spokesman for the Pakistan Foreign Ministry said the decision to close the embassy was made earlier this week, but told to the Taliban on Thursday. A spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition says they are "delighted" with the news of Pakistan's move.

Some 5,000 French troops will be committed to the U.S.-led military campaign in Afghanistan, a Defense Ministry spokesman said. There will be 2,450 naval and air force personnel involved in the deployment of the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, due to arrive in the Indian Ocean in mid-December. So far, 2,000 French troops have been involved in logistical and intelligence support, with 300 of them taking part in security and humanitarian aid missions around Mazar-e-Sharif.

Fearing bin Laden and his associates might try to slip out of Afghanistan, U.S. officials announced Wednesday they would stop and board suspect ships off the coast of Pakistan as well as target aircraft trying to escape Afghan airspace.

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