KABUL (AFP) - Taleban leader Mullah Omar on Tuesday dismissed key elections due in Afghanistan next year as "a waste of time", posing a major challenge to international efforts to ensure a credible poll.
Participation of the Pashtun ethnic group - from which the Taleban gain most of their support - is seen as essential to the success of the presidential election, scheduled for April 5.
The vote will be a benchmark test of Afghanistan's progress since the fall of the Taleban regime in 2001, and the United States and other foreign donors say the poll is crucial for the country's future after NATO-led troops withdraw next year.
"As to the deceiving drama under the name of elections 2014, our pious people will not tire themselves out, nor will they participate in it," Mullah Omar said.
"Participation in such elections is only a waste of time, nothing more."
The reclusive one-eyed supremo issued a lengthy statement via the Internet ahead of Eid celebrations due to begin in Afghanistan on Thursday to mark the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
He also offered glimmers of hope for peace after 12 years of fighting, saying that the Taleban, who sheltered Al-Qaeda during their harsh rule of Afghanistan from 1996-2001, did not seek a return to absolute power.
"(The Taleban) does not think of monopolising power," he said.
"Rather we believe in reaching understanding with the Afghans regarding an Afghan-inclusive government based on Islamic principles."