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In front of a Taliban flag, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, center, speaks at his first news conference, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021. Mujahid vowed Tuesday that the Taliban would respect women's rights, forgive those who resisted them and ensure a secure Afghanistan as part of a publicity blitz aimed at convincing world powers and a fearful population that they have changed. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

The Afghan Taliban said on Tuesday they wanted peaceful relations with other countries and would respect the rights of women within the framework of Islamic law, as they held their first official news briefing since their shock seizure of Kabul.

The Taliban announcements, short on details but suggesting a softer line than during their rule 20 years ago, came as the United States and Western allies resumed evacuating diplomats and civilians the day after scenes of chaos at Kabul airport as Afghans thronged the runway.

As they rush to evacuate, foreign powers are assessing how to respond to the transformed situation on the ground after Afghan forces melted away in just days, with what many had predicted as the likely fast unravelling of women’s rights.

During their 1996-2001 rule, also guided by sharia (Islamic law), the Taliban stopped women from working and meted out punishments including public stoning. Girls were not allowed to go to school and women had to wear all-enveloping burqas to go out.

“We don’t want any internal or external enemies,” the movement’s main spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said.

Women would be allowed to work and study and “will be very active in society but within the framework of Islam”, he added.

In response, United Nations spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York: “We will need to see what actually happens and I think we will need to see acts on the ground in terms of promises kept.”