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Taliban Pulls Out of Talks with Pakistani Government


Pro-Taliban militants in Pakistan say they have pulled out of a peace dialogue with the government because it is refusing to agree to their demands, including withdrawal of military forces from tribal areas bordering Afghanistan. Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.

Influential tribal elders in Pakistan's volatile Waziristan border region have been trying for several weeks to mediate a peace deal between the country's new coalition government and an al-Qaida-linked militant leader, Baituallah Mehsud.

But Mehsud spokesman, Maulvi Omar, told VOA that tribal elders have informed them government negotiators are not ready to pull out troops from Waziristan and other areas, a key Taliban demand.

Taliban spokesman Omar says they have suspended the peace talks, accusing the government of not being sincere in its peace efforts. He also warned that the Pakistani government will now be responsible for whatever happens in tribal areas and elsewhere in the country.

There were few official details available about the peace talks from either side until last week, when Taliban commander Mehsud ordered his fighters to stop all attacks in Pakistan in order to facilitate the dialogue.

The move provoked military authorities to ease restrictions on movement of people within the Waziristan region and both sides expressed optimism a peace deal would be finalized in a few days.

Pakistan has seen frequent deadly suicide bombings and other violent attacks in recent months and authorities blame militants loyal to Baitullah Mehsud. The country's most-wanted man is also accused of ordering the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in December, a charge Mehsud denies.

Pakistan is a close U.S ally in its war against terrorism and has ordered major military operations in the Waziristan border regions to kill or capture Taliban as well as militants linked to the al-Qaida network. These militants are also accused of planning cross-border attacks on foreign and local troops in Afghanistan.

While maintaining military pressure on these extremists in its border region, Pakistani authorities have signed peace deals with them in the past leading to temporary cease-fires. But critics say the breathing space allowed militants to regroup and intensify attacks within Pakistan and across the Afghan border.

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