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Peace Conference Opens in Afghanistan


Hundreds of Pakistani and Afghan delegates are holding a landmark peace conference, or jirga, in the Afghan capital, Kabul. The four-day talks are focused on curbing pro-Taleban violence and improving ties between the two countries. From Kabul, VOA Correspondent Benjamin Sand reports the jirga has already encountered its first major setback.

The jirga opened Thursday morning under a cloud after Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf abruptly cancelled a much-anticipated appearance, to deal with political problems at home.

The jirga is focused on reining in pro-Taleban militants operating on either side of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

Both countries blame the other for a recent surge in violence and relations are at an historic low.

During his opening address, Afghan President Hamid Karzai called for greater cooperation in the war against terrorism.

He says he is confident that if both countries act together they could eliminate the threat in matter of days.

Politicians and political analysts have said the jirga is only a first step in improving security, in part because tribal leaders from Pakistan's border areas are not taking part. In addition, no representatives from the Taleban are attending.

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