the uk's medicines regulator, says the oxford astrazeneca vaccine is �*safe�*. but under—305 will be offered an alternative covid jab — due to further evidence linking the jab to rare blood clots. the european medicines agency says blood clots should be listed as a very rare side effect. the british government says it will provide targeted help to the hundreds of thousands of hong kong citizens expected to move to the uk using a special visa. the chinese government has introduced a security law there which restricts longstanding democratic freedoms. at the murder trial of the former police officer, derek chauvin — the prosecution has reversed part of its evidence over the words uttered by george floyd. after initially accepting mr floyd had said "i ate too many drugs" — they now believe he actually said "i ain't done no drugs.
now on bbc news, it's hardtalk with stephen sackur. welcome to hardtalk. i'm stephen sackur. if afghanistan is to find a way out of seemingly never—ending war, the next few weeks will be critically important. the biden administration is pressing the afghan government and the taliban to accept a transition plan based on a ceasefire and power sharing. it's a tough sell, given the taliban has intensified its military campaign in recent months. but what is the alternative? my guest is afghanistan's combative first vice president, amrullah saleh. is the afghan peace process running out of road?
first, vice president amrullah saleh in kabul, welcome to hardtalk. thank you. good to be with you. it's a pleasure to have you on the show, mr vice president. i would like you first to tell me how you feel about the biden administration sending your government a very clear and blunt message. show leadership, they said — take tough decisions for peace. are you ready to do that? to begin with, we are thankful for the amount of time this administration in the united states has given to the peace process in afghanistan and afghanistan as a whole, they are involved.
we have had good discussions with them. but if you are referring to the letter we received from secretary of state, we clearly responded back that we have been taking very risky and dangerous decisions so far, and we are ready to take very, very tough decisions. but this has to be reciprocated. the one—sided pressure on the islamic republic of afghanistan will not be helpful. united states 20 years ago created an international and global alliance to oust the taliban. a similar meagre—sized global alliance is needed to bring peace. if the war on terror was global, peace cannot be local. it has to be global too. right. but i am indeed referring
to that letter from secretary of state tony blinken to your boss, president ashraf ghani. and he, mr blinken, said that he wanted you in the government "to understand the urgency of my tone". he called for urgent leadership and he basically said, "you guys need to step down. "you need to agree to the creation of "a transitional government, "which would involve sharing power "with elements from the taliban." are you telling me that you will not accept that? well, if washington has a sense of urgency, we have more sense of urgency. we are in the middle of the heat. of the fire. we know who gets killed. i meet grieving families. i know who get buried. so we feel the pain, and they read about the pain. so please do not misunderstand this. but bringing peace in afghanistan based on an artificial schedule
and based on abstract calculation will not happen. so what we said back to the us administration, that we are ready to create a government of peace, we said we are ready to not finish our term and hold an election as soon as feasible. we want to hold an election intensely monitored by international monitors, the more... the best monitored election of human race. and we said we will not stand and run for office in the election. but it's about mechanics and dynamics and details that are different. yes. yeah, it is about mechanics, and it's about sequencing. and the american position is quite clear — that they believe the only workable way of getting to a lasting peace is to invite
elements of the taliban into a transitional government before elections. now, what is interesting to me is that there are some people inside your government who clearly sympathise with that. i'm thinking of abdullah abdullah, who is arguably number two in the government. he said that he cautiously welcomed america's proposals. the direct quote from him was, "there are ideas here that can "help both sides pick things up and will work for the country." so your government is very divided, isn't it? no, it's not very divided. i am the first vice president, and the government has worked cohesively and there is an unprecedented cohesion in the government. we very highly appreciate and welcome the united states�* urgency to pursue diplomatic solution, political
settlement in afghanistan. that's very fine. but when it comes to the details of how to broker a settlement, we should be listened to. it's our country and it's going to be the destiny of 35 million afghans. and i have said in the past, peace cannot be pressure—cooked. we have to listen to all parties, all parties concerned. we want to achieve stability and peace. we have to restore and strengthen hope for millions and millions of afghans. we have said we will not agree to an elite deal which will not be implemented. so what we are clearly saying is we are ready to sacrifice, we are ready to show concession, but we are not ready to abrogate the afghan constitution and step over it. how toxic could your relationship with the biden administration become?
because it's quite clear that joe biden wants to get us troops completely out of afghanistan as soon as possible. he may not meet the may 1st deadline that donald trump set, but he wants those troops home. he wants a peace deal. the americans believe that this transitional government idea is the best way to get a peace deal. and if you stand in the way of it, your relationship with the americans will become corrosive. first of all, we will not stand in the way of the us government to withdraw its troops from afghanistan. it will be their legitimate sovereign right. we will not be able to stand on their way. they are a global power. but if afghanistan sinks into chaos, that will be a stinking spot in the conscious of the global community. we should not be denied peace. we should not be
denied stability. we have suffered too much, and we have suffered for global causes. so the world is not paying us charity. they owe us. and i would not go into the details of that. so therefore, a responsible exit from here is the right of the afghan people to ask from the international community. and as i said, the united states has massive diplomatic might. it has massive global influence. that has to be mobilised for bringing peace to afghanistan, and it is doable, and as i said, we are ready to show compromise, we are ready to show concession and we are ready for sacrifice, but the sacrifice should lead to peace. it should not be prelude, another reason for another perpetual war in my country.
so that's why we are not saying... ..we are not putting a dogmatic solution on the table. the president is not a king. i am not a crown prince. we are not having a political party. we are not a dictatorship. we are very pragmatic. we say we want to hold elections as soon as feasible and we want the elections to be monitored by whatever number of international monitors. isn't it irony that we ask for elections and the biggest democracy should ask us, "no, elections is not good"? that will not go well with the rules—based global order. i think it is fair to say that you hated the doha peace deal that the trump administration brokered with the taliban and which you ultimately accepted. you hated it from the very beginning. i just want to ask you a personal question. the americans really wanted you in your government
to release hundreds and hundreds of taliban prisoners as a part of that deal. reluctantly, you did so. i believe you released several thousand. we now understand that hundreds of those prisoners are back on the front lines and are actively fighting for the taliban and killing your forces. i just want you to tell me in a personal way how you feel about the way the americans handled that issue. stephen, you nailed it, but i would like to use my own words, explain it. we are not party to the doha agreement, we are not in it. it's an agreement between the united states and the taliban. us special envoy for this particular matter, ambassador khalilzad, said that the agreement has four parts. it is about ceasefire, it's about political settlement, it's about withdrawal, and it's about separating taliban from global terror networks. if any of these four pillars is not done,
the whole thing is not done. so the sequencing was wrong. and the reason i did not buy the doha agreement is exactly because of what you said. we released 5,500 prisoners. 85% of them are back in the battlefield. amongst those prisoners, there were up to 60 major drug dealers who were not arrested as taliban, but they bribed the taliban to be, you know, named taliban and thus get out of the afghan jails. each of them were imprisoned for 20, 30 years. so when you clearly nailed it down, the doha agreement is not working as it was envisioned. so it needs revision, it needs review and it needs modification. but... and we are not party to it. but isn't the truth... we are not party to it. isn't the truth, mr vice president, that for very clear personal reasons, you will never be prepared
to make peace with the taliban. you are a fighter. you're a protege of the northern alliance's leader, ahmad shah massoud. you've made a life confronting the taliban. they've tried to kill you. they and their associates in different militia organisations have tried to kill you on many different occasions. 0ne infamous incident in 2019, when suicide bombers went to your campaign headquarters. they killed more than 30 people. you're one of the few people to escape alive. you and the taliban are in a blood feud to the end, aren't you? as a patriot, nationalist afghan, i am ready to suppress my personal feelings and i will be a drop in the sea of the national feelings in the country. and the national sentiment and the national
feeling is for peace. er, i will not to stand in the way of the peace. i can't stand in the way of the peace. but what i have articulated in the past that, you know, together with president ashraf ghani, we will hold the elections as soon as feasible. he will not stand, as he has articulated. i will not stand, as i have clearly made it public, but i have said i will not work under the same ceiling with a taliban. that's what i have said. and i stand by my statement, but i will not stand in the way of the peace. that will not be something sellable to the afghan people today. but sometimes when i look at the things you've said, it seems to me that you are more intent on killing taliban than even contemplating making a peace with them. and i should say for context, you know, your own sister was badly beaten by the taliban. i think you lost two nephews in that bomb attack i referred to. you yourself have just survived many assassination attempts. but when you say things
like this, that "i am ready to die with a chest and head full of 100 bullets rather than be part of a deal which sells the rights of my people to a medieval terrorist organisation," that doesn't make me think that you have any belief or intent in pursuing a peace. that statement i have made and i stand with it. i still want to say to you, i prefer to be killed by 100 bullets, but not to sign a deal in which the afghans are denied the right to elect their leaders. that's absolutely my position. i have said it. i am saying it again. but that is not me as a person saying i represent a constituency. i represent a pan—afghan sentiment, and the pan—afghan sentiment is this — taliban is a minority. it's a clerical dictatorship.
we will not bow to them, but we are ready to accommodate them in a pluralistic society, in a pluralistic system. but we are not going to sell our soul. that's what i have said. and i want to say it again. mr vice president, is it possible you are making a terrible mistake with your current stand, which might prolong the fighting? you might end up seeing the taliban grab even more territory and ultimately seeing your own government collapse from within? the pentagon says that more than 50% of afghanistan's territory is now in the hands of the taliban. the killings have surged in recent months. the assassinations of middle—class members of the journalistic profession, the judiciary, have intensified. things are going horribly wrong on your watch. things are going wrong on everybody�*s watch. it's not about afghanistan alone. remember, there is also their
standing prestige of the... of nato, of united nations, of the western civilisation as well. please do not belittle it as an afghan conflict. we still have resolute support here. we have numerous united nations resolution, security council resolutions in which it clearly says the rights of the afghan people, the rights of its citizens must be protected. but to say it's a purely afghan issue and, you know, afghanistan is stuck in the wrong place and it's stuck in a wrong time, that is like fooling ourselves. this was a global issue. it is a global issue, and it requires a global solution. the world managed to create a global alliance for the anti—terrorism within weeks. why are we unable to create a global alliance for protection and guaranteeing of peace within weeks?
that's reachable. that's within our grasp. and if things go wrong, it will not be because of amrullah�*s stubborn position or his principled statement. it will be for escaping from moral responsibility we all have together to bring peace to the afghan, to the afghan masses. john sopko, the us department of defense's special inspector for afg hanistan�*s reconstruction, recently told the us congress that if the us forces completely pull out, and let's assume nato forces completely pull out in the next few months, if not weeks, quote, "the afghan government will probably lose "the capability of flying any of its aircraft "within a few months. "and to be quite blunt, it would probably face collapse." do you accept that? the...
the exit of the us troops will not mean exit off our mountains, it will not mean exit of our valleys. it will not mean exit of our rivers. exit of 35 million afghan people. and those 35 million afghan people are not ready to bow to a clerical extremist dictatorship. we will fight. in what way or form, that's another story. but to say that the fate of our country is, you know, hanging on presence or absence of a few thousand foreign troops is simplification of a very complicated and sophisticated, er, sophisticated issue of our times. let me ask you why, after many years of committing to root out corruption, your government, successive afghan governments, but we have to include yours as well, have utterly failed to do so.
the latest, again, us report, and it matters because the us spends so much money in your country, they monitor these things very carefully. the latest report late last year concluded that a total of approximately $19 billion worth of us aid and assistance to afghanistan, roughly 30% of the total amount reviewed, was lost to waste, fraud and abuse. it's known that your security forces are absolutely notorious for their corruption on the ground, that the citizens of your country simply cannot trust them. you and your colleagues in government of utterly failed to root that out. stephen, first of all, your questions are much longer than my answer, so please let me to answer. first of all, the afghan security forces time and again, they are being called as pride of the engagement of nato and us and afghanistan.
they have been shouldering huge responsibility. they do over 95% of the operations by themselves. then in regards to the corruption management of ngos and relationship with ngos is my responsibility. it's part of my executive portfolio. we are not in charge of more than 60% of the money that comes in the name of afghanistan. so i would caution you citing those figures, what does corruption mean? if i don't have ownership of the 60 cents of each dollar that comes in the name of my country and in that remaining a0%, need assessment and prioritisation is a shared responsibility of both us and our development partners. then if there is corruption on that scale, it shouldn't be, you know, written
on the forehead of the afghans, that will not be... ..that will not be fair. and on the question of the popularity or lack of the popularity of our forces, absolutely baseless. this is the first time in our contemporary history that the army is seen as a national institution. the police is seen as a national institution. you are right about the casualties. but for every fallen hero, we have two more outstanding persons to fill his position. that comes with popularity of the cause, nobility of the cause. and remember, stephen, this is not a conscripted or drafted army, it is purely volunteer. so sometimes these type of articles are written to, you know, to put pressure on us psychologically. and we have lived with it so long to understand the reasons behind it. all right.
we must end in a minute. just sum up for me where we are today. because with the diplomatic process around the drive for peace, we've now got the russians involved. we've got the plans for a turkish—based conference in may, which is supposed to be a grand peace conference. but from everything you're telling me, there's no basis right now to believe that there is scope for a peace deal. so are you deeply pessimistic today? no, no, no, no. please do not be a negative disciple of what i say. i say we are ready for compromise, but we don't want the constitution of afghanistan and the islamic republic to be the sacrificial goat for a very crude peace process. yeah, but to be realistic, the plan on the table, you are not prepared to accept, you are not prepared to accept
sharing power with the taliban. you only talk of elections. well... which the taliban will not accept. you persuade me that there's any scope for hope. stephen... no, there is massive scope for hope. this is a very rare window of opportunity with us so deeply involved to bring peace. but what is on the table is an idea. it's not a concrete plan. it's an idea for discussion. and we are ready to discuss every aspect of it. but nothing concrete has been put on the table. we are going to turkey with sincerity, with seriousness and with conviction to bring peace. we don't want to be in the way of peace. the ball is now in the court of the taliban, on the side of the taliban to agree to a political settlement. they have not. all they insist on is us withdrawal, victory of their so—called jihadism and madrasa culture.
that's not going to happen in afghanistan with or without united states being here. taliban dictatorship will not be established in my country. vice president amrullah saleh, i thank you very much indeed forjoining me on hardtalk. thank you. hello there. it was a cold, frosty start on wednesday with some early sunshine, but the cloud arrived as we went through the day, and we closed out wednesday with quite a lot of cloud around acting like a blanket through the night. so, temperatures not falling quite as far. and in actual fact, the wind
direction changing for thursday to more of a westerly, and that's going to drive something a little less cold across the country with the darker blues, the colder airjust being pushed out of the way for one day at least. also got some rain arriving with this area of low pressure. the wettest and the windiest of the weather always going to be into the far northwest for thursday. so, quite a lot of rain around, the wind strengthening here. thicker cloud along west facing coasts of wales and southwest england will always bring the risk of the odd spot or two of light rain. sheltered eastern areas faring best in terms of drier, brighter weather, but not that much in the way of sunshine. a breezy day — the strongest of the winds always going to be where the heaviest of the rain is. 6—8 degrees generally under the rain, but we will see temperatures widely into double digits. slightly less cold for thursday afternoon. now, our weatherfront continues to push its way steadily south. that's where we'll see the cloud across england and wales, so temperatures to start off on friday
holding up above freezing, but behind the cold front, the wind direction changing once again and those temperatures falling away. we will see a frost returning in sheltered rural areas, and, yes, with that northerly wind continuing to drive in more wintry showers across the far north of scotland. the frontal system sinks its way into central and southern england and wales. here, we mightjust see double figures, but behind it, drier, colder, sunny spells and scattered wintry showers are set to continue. now, as the cold front eases away and we move into saturday, this little fellow causing one or two problems. there's the potential across southern england, maybe as far north as east anglia seeing some rain. still subject to question, so you'll need to keep watching the forecast. further north and west, it's a case of sunny spells and scattered wintry showers once again. it's going to be a cold day whether you're in the sunshine and wintry showers or whether you're under the cloud and rain. and that theme is set to continue for sunday as well. no signs of any significant warmth arriving over the next few days to come. take care.
a very warm welcome to bbc news with the latest headlines for viewers in the uk and around the world. my name is mike embley. regulators say the benefits of the astrazeneca covid vaccine outweigh the small risk of blood clots, but the uk will offer alternative jabs to young adults. this is a change in clinical advice for the under 30s. it will require some changes in the way that the national health service operationalises the vaccine rollout programme. myanmar�*s ambassador to london is locked out of his embassy, apparently because of his opposition to the military coup. at the trial of the former police officer derek chauvin, the prosecution reverses part of its evidence over words uttered by george floyd as he lay pinned to the ground.