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Afghanistan's Karzai Pushes Ahead With Peace Talks


Afghan President Hamid Karzai, right, delivers a speech at the opening of the second year of the Afghanistan parliament in Kabul, Afghanistan, January 21, 2012.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, right, delivers a speech at the opening of the second year of the Afghanistan parliament in Kabul, Afghanistan, January 21, 2012.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai is pushing ahead with talks aimed at bringing peace and stability to the country. But his most recent efforts were not focused on the Taliban.

Karzai told Afghanistan's parliament Saturday he recently met with representatives of Hizb-i-Islami, the radical militia headed by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. Hizb-i-Islami operates on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan border and has previously launched attacks on U.S. forces.

The Afghan president said both sides expressed their thoughts in a "brotherly and friendly" manner and that he was optimistic there would be more talks in the future.

Karzai's announcement came just hours before he was set to meet with U.S. special representative Marc Grossman. Grossman is in Kabul to discuss plans for bringing the Taliban into formal talks.

In a statement released by the U.S. embassy in Kabul, Grossman said he looks forward to discussing the next steps in the reconciliation process. He said the U.S. "stands ready to assist in any way we can."

Even as officials discuss the prospects for more peace talks, violence continues to ravage parts of Afghanistan.

Officials said four Afghan border police died in western Herat province after their vehicle hit a roadside bomb. Insurgents then attacked with grenade launchers and small arms fire.

In Lashkar Gar, in the country's restive Helmand province, three civilians died and two were injured after their truck hit a roadside bomb

A soldier with the NATO-led International Assistance Force (ISAF) also died Saturday in southern Afghanistan.

And Afghan officials said Afghan security forces and foreign troops killed four insurgents in the previous day.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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