Manama: Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Thursday mulled his response to US efforts to repair damaged ties after a public spat over the Taliban opening an office in Qatar for peace talks.

Karzai and US Secretary of State John Kerry spoke twice by telephone after the Afghan government became enraged that the office was opened in a blaze of publicity and US officials were apparently about to arrive for talks.

The office used the formal name of “Islamic Emirate Of Afghanistan” from the rebels’ 1996-2001 government, and a Taliban spokesman at the opening press conference declined to say they supported the peace process.

Qatar has moved in to help defuse crippling tension.

“The office, which was opened on Tuesday is the Political Bureau of the Taliban Afghan in Doha, and not of the political bureau of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan,” an official source at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told Qatar News Agency (QNA). “The official name that was agreed upon with regard to the opening of this office is the Political Bureau of Taliban in Doha.”

“John Kerry assured that the Qatari government has removed the ‘Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’ sign from the Taliban office and the office is for peace talks only,” a statement from Karzai’s office said late Wednesday.

Karzai told Kerry that Afghan public opinion was “extremely negative” to the way in which the Taliban office had been unveiled in an event that many experts described as an international publicity coup for the rebels.

The office was opened with grand fanfare by the Taliban who endeavoured to display, through their flag flying from the building using the name - the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, prompting the Afghani government to feel “betrayed”.

A senior Afghan embassy official told Qatari daily Gulf Times that the controversy was over the name of the Taliban office in Doha in the statement released to the media on Tuesday and on the plaque of their office in the West Bay area of the Qatari capital.

He said they had been assured that the name for the building would not be used.

However, Sohail Shaheen, from the Taliban office in Doha, dismissed the objections to the name.

“They just want to deliberately create hurdles for us. We are interested in peace and our office (in Doha) is only for these efforts,” he told the daily. “But, it seems that they (the Karzai government) are not interested (in peace efforts). Inshallah, all such elements who are not interested in peace will be exposed,” he reportedly said.

Shaheen said that he expected a general meeting where each side gets to know the other would precede in the direct talks with the Americans.

Tayyab Agha, the head of the Taliban bureau, is expected to lead their delegation to the talks.

Reports said that the pre-conditions by Washington for the talks included the Taliban making a statement supporting a peace process and opposing the use of Afghan soil to attack other countries.

“The opening of this office has made the Taliban look strong, the Americans desperate and President Karzai angry,” the Afghanistan Analysts Network said in a briefing note.

Afghanistan 1400, a civil youth group, said the office should be used to hold Taliban leaders to account for their crimes.

“It only reminds Afghans of the horror and oppression of the Taliban regime, and their brutality under the same banner in recent years,” it said.

With the US-led NATO combat mission due to end next year, US officials are determined to resume talks with the Taliban after tentative contacts limited to a prisoner swap collapsed last year.

But Karzai, the only leader of Afghanistan since the Taliban were toppled in the 2001 US-led invasion, opposes bilateral US-Taliban talks.

On Wednesday he broke off ongoing Afghan-US talks on an agreement that would allow Washington to maintain soldiers in Afghanistan after the NATO combat mission ends.

The US State Department dismissed earlier reports which said the United States had scheduled talks with the Taliban for this week.

“Reports of a meeting being scheduled or on the books aren’t accurate,” spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters, saying Washington had “never confirmed” the date and place of any specific meeting.

“We are now in consultations with the Afghan leadership and the High Peace Council on how to move forward,” she said.

The High Peace Council is the government body in charge of leading peace efforts with the Taliban.

In response to the talks suspension, US President Barack Obama said he always expected “friction” at Afghan reconciliation talks but voiced hope that “despite those challenges the process will proceed”.

Troubled relations between Karzai and his US backers have degenerated into public rows in the past, but many Afghans reacted with scepticism to news that the Taliban could be ready to enter peace talks.

Karzai on Tuesday seemed to embrace the opportunities presented by the opening of the Taliban office in Qatar when he attended NATO’s formal transfer of responsibility for nationwide security to Afghan forces.

About 100,000 foreign combat troops, 68,000 of them from the US, are due to withdraw by the end of next year.