Afghanistan’s Taliban said Saturday that their leaders had restarted peace talks with the United States, as a May 1 deadline for all US-led foreign troops to withdraw from the war-shattered country fast approaches.

Iran press/ Asia: A spokesman for the Taliban said the meeting took place Friday night in Doha, the capital of Qatar, where Taliban political deputy chief Abdul Ghani Baradar and US special Afghan peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad led their respective teams.

The Taliban reject Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s government as an illegal entity and product of the US occupation of Afghanistan, insisting intra-Afghan peace talks should lead to the formation of an Islamic government in Kabul.

Ghani said Saturday that the only way to form a government should be through “fair, free and inclusive elections under the auspices of the international community,” insisting he would not compromise on the country’s constitution.

“We can also talk about the date of the elections and reach a conclusion,” Ghani told lawmakers in a speech to open the third term of the legislative National Assembly in Kabul.

“The transfer of power through elections is a non-negotiable principle for us,” he said, stopping short of outrightly rejecting the proposal for an interim government.

Ghani won a second five-year term in the controversy-marred Afghan presidential election two years ago.

“I advise those who go to this or that gate to gain power that political power in Afghanistan has a gate, and the key is the vote of the Afghan people,” he said, without directly referring to the proposed international conference.

Khalilzad had traveled to Doha from Afghanistan, where he held three days of consultations with Kabul government officials, civil society leaders, and other political figures on how to move the peace process forward.