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Afghan Clerics Call for Saudi-Mediated Talks With Taliban

Afghanistan's top Muslim clerics are calling for Saudi-mediated talks with the Taliban, aimed at reducing violence in the country.

Afghanistan's religious council on Friday said the Taliban should be included in a proposed conference, with Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah playing a role. The talks would also include government representatives, religious scholars, and other prominent figures.

Saudi Arabia was one of only a few countries that recognized the strictly Islamic Taliban government that ruled Afghanistan in the 1990s.

Last year, Afghan President Hamid Karzai asked the Saudi leader to help engage Taliban militants in reconciliation talks to end the growing insurgency.

In an interview with 'The Newshour with Jim Lehrer' on U.S. public television, Mr. Karzai said the Taliban are welcome in Afghanistan, and he supports U.S. efforts to engage in talks with moderate insurgents.

During the interview, President Karzai also said the Obama administration's deployment of additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan was "seven years too late."

Mr.. Karzai said he welcomes the approval of 17, 000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan. But he said he has repeatedly asked for more soldiers to help with rising militant attacks since 2002.

Mr. Karzai said he is still deciding whether he will run as a candidate in Afghanistan's presidential elections in August.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP