Diplomats' Expulsions Protested

KABUL, Afghanistan -- The United Nations mission in Afghanistan on Wednesday protested the Afghan government's decision to expel two senior European diplomats accused of holding unauthorized meetings with Taliban militants.

The diplomats -- one worked for the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan and the other was the acting head of the European Union mission -- will leave the country Thursday, as demanded by the Afghan government, officials said.

"We see no basis for such a decision, but we respect the sovereignty of the government of Afghanistan and have every intention to abide by that decision," said Aleem Siddique, a spokesman for the UN mission.

"We are hopeful to get their return as soon as possible," he said.

The two diplomats -- who have years of experience in Afghanistan, speak the local languages and know the country's complex tribal structures -- traveled to the town of Musa Qala, in the volatile southern province of Helmand on Monday, Siddique said.

The EU and UN officials were asked to leave Afghanistan because their activities were "detrimental" to national security, he said.

President Hamid Karzai's spokesman, said the two were "involved in activities that were not their jobs."

"We do feel that this is a misunderstanding that we are trying to rectify with the government of Afghanistan," Siddique said.

An official at EU headquarters in Brussels confirmed that the EU official being expelled was Michael Semple, deputy EU representative.