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Rebels Scorn Afghan Leader’s Offer of Elections

October 1, 1991 GMT

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) _ President Najibullah on Monday offered to hold internationally supervised elections in his homeland. Muslim insurgents, meanwhile, escalated their attacks on key Afghan cities.

″The government is ready to launch local elections under the supervison of the United Nations,″ Najibullah said at a news conference in the capital.

Guerrillas based in Pakistan, who have been fighting successive Communist- style governments for 13 years, dismissed the proposal.

″It’s not new,″ said Minhaj, a spokesman for seven major guerrilla groups based in the Pakistani border city of Peshawar. ″He offered elections when the Soviet Union and eastern Europe were breaking up, but nothing ever happened.″

The spokesman said the rebels would never participate in elections involving Najibullah or his Wattan Party.

″The problem isn’t elections, it is ideology. We don’t accept them and we will never accept them. They are Communists, even if they try to pretend that now they are good Muslims,″ Minhaj said.

While Najibullah spoke to reporters, rebels pounded at his hometown of Gardez in eastern Afghanistan. Najibullah confirmed that the rebels had intensified their attacks on Gardez and other cities, but he did not refer to rebel claims to have captured his ancestral village near Gardez.

The guerrillas said a pre-dawn attack overran 13 government posts ringing Gardez, the last remaining obstacle for rebels trying to gain control of a key highway linking Pakistan to Kabul. Capturing Gardez would open an important supply line to rebel positions surrounding the capital.

The Communist-style government controls the major cities, including all but six of the 31 provincial capitals. The rebels hold the countryside.

Najibullah has given his support to U.N. Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar’s peace plan that calls for a cutoff of arms supplies to the government and rebels and a cease-fire. That would be followed by broad-based talks leading to the formation of an interim government and elections.

But even the most moderate of U.S.-backed rebels have refused to negotiate with Najibullah.

Najibullah told reporters he would not step down. ″That would create a serious vacuum that would not expedite a political settlement,″ he said.

″There cannot be a genuine intra-Afghan dialogue if any main personality is excluded from these talks,″ he added.

An estimated 10,000 guerrillas surrounded Gardez, said guerrilla sources, speaking on condition that they not be identified.

In a major symbolic victory, rebels claimed they overran Najibullah’s ancestral village of Najibqilla, 10 miles east of Gardez, the capital of Paktia Province.

″We’re better armed than we have ever been. We have more tanks, artillery and long-range missiles than ever before,″ said a spokesman for guerrilla commander Ibrahim Haqqani, who reportedly is leading the offensive against Gardez.

Saudi Arabia, a longtime ally of the Afghan resistance, reportedly shipped about seven Soviet tanks abandoned by fleeing Iraqi soldiers during the Gulf War to the guerrillas.