In last month's U.N.-sponsored peace talks, Afghanistan's fundmentalist Taliban militia agreed with the northern opposition alliance to establish a panel of 40 religious scholars who would rule the country. The Taliban has now rescinded this agreement.
The Taliban and the northern opposition had disagreed on qualifications necessary for members of the religious panel. Taliban officials demanded that panel members must be graduates of a recognized Islamic seminary, while opposition groups pushed for allowing scholars and tribal leaders.
The Taliban, which controls about 85% of Afghanistan, has issued decrees prohibiting women from leaving their homes unless accompanied by a husband, brother or son, forbidding girls from obtaining an education and denying women adequate access to healthcare. The U.N. has refused to grant recognition of the Taliban as the official ruling power in Afghanistan until women's human rights are restored.