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Karzai Invites Taliban Leadership to Direct Talks


Former Taliban militants hold their weapons during a joining ceremony with the Afghan government in Herat, west of Kabul, January 30, 2012.

Former Taliban militants hold their weapons during a joining ceremony with the Afghan government in Herat, west of Kabul, January 30, 2012.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has invited the Taliban leadership to direct talks with his government, while asking Pakistan to "support and facilitate" those negotiations aimed at ending a decade of war.

Related video report by Jeff Swicord

In a statement issued Tuesday, Mr. Karzai said he was inviting Taliban leaders "in order to realize the objectives of the peace process."

He said that process envisions all Afghans who have remained outside Afghanistan's political process, including the Taliban, returning to "peaceful lives in their country."

The Afghan president said Pakistan's support of the peace process will be "crucial to its success" and a "significant contribution to the security and stability of Afghanistan and the entire region."

Mr. Karzai's comments follow his visit to Pakistan late last week for a trilateral summit with his Pakistani and Iranian counterparts on regional stability.

During the summit, Pakistani officials warned President Karzai against having unrealistic expectations about bringing the Afghan Taliban to the negotiating table.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar told reporters that it would be "preposterous" for Afghanistan to expect Pakistan to deliver Taliban chief Mullah Omar - who is rumored to be hiding in Pakistan - for talks.

It is unclear whether President Karzai has pressed the Pakistani leadership for access to any senior Afghan Taliban leaders believed to be based in Pakistan. Islamabad has had close ties over the years with the Afghan Taliban, but denies that the group is based within its borders.

The Wall Street Journal last Thursday quoted Mr. Karzai as saying that the U.S. and Afghan governments have begun secret three-way talks with the Taliban. However, the insurgent group issued a statement insisting once again that it has never negotiated with what it calls Mr. Karzai's "puppet administration."

Preliminary peace talks said to be under way in Qatar reportedly include only U.S. and Taliban officials.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.

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