An Afghan Government delegation has met representatives of Afghan insurgent groups in the Maldives , it was claimed yesterday, and is to do so again this weekend. The alleged talks were confirmed by Maldives Government officials. Muhammad Zuhair, a Maldives Government spokesman, said that 15 Afghan government representatives took part with seven Taliban members. The Afghan Government denied, however, that its representatives were present in the Maldives and insisted that its focus for a reconciliation with the Taliban and other groups remained the Peace Jirga of tribal representatives that is to be held in Kabul at the end of the month. Other Afghan Government officials said that the talks were with Hizb-e-Islami, a militant group often allied to the Taliban which has armed groups in at least four eastern provinces of the country as well as parts of the north. Hizb-e-Islami is led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the renegade warlord and former Afghan Prime Minister. Talks in the Maldives were also held in January. Arsala Rahmani, an Afghan lawmaker and regular intermediary in back channel talks with the insurgency, said that Hekmatyars son-in-law, Humayoun Jareer, was leading the Hizb delegation. A senior Hizb-e-Islami figure, Qaribul Rahman Sayad, who now lives in Belgium, denied that the talks were officially sanctioned by the group. Officially Hizb e-Islami is not involved in this but we have unofficial representatives there, he said by telephone. The Times understands that Afghan officials believe talks with Hizb e-Islami are very close to producing a deal under which the groups armed wing would lay down its weapons and join a reintegration programme. Though much smaller than the Taliban, officials believe such a development would give momentum to the wider Afghan Government reconciliation effort. One senior Afghan official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: The inner circle of Hizb e-Islami will be reintegrated soon. However, the official said that he did not believe that the leader of Hizb-e-Islami, Mr Hekmatyar, would feature in such a deal, describing him as too explosive a figure. Mr Hekmatyars forces were accused of numerous human rights abuses during Afghanistans civil war. Heand his followers switched allegiances repeatedly during the civil war period. A legally recognised political wing of Hizb e-Islami, which claims to have no ties to the insurgency, enjoys significant support amongst conservative Afghans in urban and rural areas and claims to be the largest bloc in the Afghan parliament. Relations between the Taliban and Hizb e-Islami groups have sometimes been strained and evenspilled over into violence. In March there were serious clashes between the two groups in Baghlan Province during which Hizb e-Islami militants reportedly contacted Nato forces offering to defect if Nato conducted airstrikes against their adversaries. (The Times)