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Karzai Calls on Taliban to Accept Peace in Afghanistan

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has renewed his call for the Taliban to accept peace and join with the government.

During his speech at the opening session of the Afghan parliament in Kabul Saturday, Mr. Karzai also urged international troops to prevent civilian deaths.

The NATO military alliance continued its offensive in the town of Marjah, a Taliban stronghold in the southern Helmand province.

Officials say two civilians were killed in the province Saturday when their motorbike was hit by a roadside bomb. At least 16 civilians have been killed since the beginning of the U.S.-led NATO offensive in the area.

Afghan police have begun moving into Marjah to take civilian control of the portions of the town freed from insurgents. Some 400 Afghan police officers were dispatched Friday.

U.S.-led forces say they are now in control of the main roads and markets in Marjah. But a NATO commander says it will take a month to remove pockets of strong resistance and to secure the area.

U.S.-led NATO forces and Afghan troops launched a major offensive against the Taliban on February 13.

At least 12 NATO troops and about 120 insurgents have been killed during the fighting. Hundreds of Afghans are fleeing the violence.

The interior ministry says that in the neighboring province of Kandahar, four civilians were killed in a bomb attack Friday. Police also have found 200 kilograms of explosive materials in the region.

In a separate operation in Paktika province (in the Sar Roza district), Afghan and international forces found a large cache of weapons and ammunition.