A bitter argument over secret talks with the Taliban broke out last night when a former UN official said claims that the arrest of militants by Pakistan had wrecked progress towards peace in Afghanistan were nonsense. Peter Galbraith told media that Kai Eide, who claims to have negotiated with senior Taliban figures as the UNs Special Representative to Afghanistan, greatly exaggerated the negotiations that he says he was conducting. Mr Eide said in a BBC interview that Pakistans recent arrest of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar and other Taliban leaders shut down talks that had been going on, with his involvement, for almost a year. He indicated that his contacts had been with the Talibans Quetta Shura leadership council and claimed that the arrests may well have hardened the Taliban rather than moved them closer to the table. Mr Galbraith, who had a public falling out with Mr Eide last year, said of his former colleague: Hes had very irregular meetings with people who were once associated with the Taliban, but he has not been in any negotiations with the Quetta Shura. Hes simply exaggerated his role. Mr Galbraith was dismissed as Deputy UN Envoy to Afghanistan last year but, until then, led UN efforts to establish negotiations with Taliban leaders inside Pakistan. The notion that these arrests disrupted a negotiation process is nonsense because there was no process, Mr Galbraith added. Mr Eide stood down from his UN post last month. The US State Department took his claims seriously enough last night to acknowledge him as a serious diplomat, but a spokesman denied the Talibans position had hardened. Mr Eide declined to comment to The Times yesterday.