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US Ambassador Urges Taleban Surrender

The U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan is calling for fighters loyal to that country's former Taleban rulers to surrender under a government offer of amnesty.

Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad says Afghanistan's successful October presidential election should be a sign to Taleban fighters that the Afghan public is fully behind the new government.

"Today, I would like to call on the Taleban to lay down their arms," he said. "The Afghan people have spoken, and elected their president. It is time for the Taleban to stop using terrorist tactics that kill Afghanistan's children."

The strict Islamist Taleban government was ousted by a coalition of Afghan and U.S. forces in 2001. Since then, some Taleban loyalists have staged hit-and-run attacks against government and civilian targets, as well as against foreign troops in the country.

At a news briefing, Mr. Khalilzad said the elected government is the legitimate authority in Afghanistan, and that it is against the laws of Islam to oppose a legal government. He noted that Afghan President Hamid Karzai has offered an amnesty to Taleban fighters who surrender.

The ambassador says U.S. forces also will abide by this pledge, if Taleban fighters end their armed struggle.

"In return, they will not be targeted by the coalition, or punished by voluntarily coming forward," he said.

But he echoed statements by President Karzai that those who have committed "crimes against the Afghan people" would not be included in the amnesty.

He did not specify what would qualify as such crimes. The condition is considered by many to be a reference to top Taleban leaders, such as Mullah Mohammed Omar, as well as the head of the al-Qaida network, Osama bin Laden, and his deputies.