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Pakistan: Militants Must Surrender Weapons Before Peace Talks


Pakistan's Interior Minister Rehman Malik attends an interview with Reuters in Islamabad, September 22, 2011.

Pakistan's Interior Minister Rehman Malik attends an interview with Reuters in Islamabad, September 22, 2011.

Pakistan's interior minister says the government is willing to enter into peace talks with militants if they lay down their weapons.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik told reporters Tuesday in the southwestern city of Quetta that the government had received messages from "extremist elements" for reconciliation and dialogue. He refused to elaborate on those messages or name the groups that reportedly had contacted the government.

But Malik did stress that Islamabad would not engage in peace talks if the insurgents "held a Kalashnikov rifle in one hand."

While there are several militant organizations operating within Pakistan, the military has been most actively engaged in battling the country's domestic Taliban movement.

For the past few years, the Pakistani military has targeted the Tehrik-i-Taliban in several of the group's strongholds in the country's semi-autonomous, remote and mountainous tribal belt bordering Afghanistan.

The Pakistani Taliban declared war on the government in 2007, partly because of the government's alliance with the United States. It has since launched suicide bombing attacks and assaults on Pakistani government, military and international targets, killing thousands of people, according to government estimates.

The government has entered into peace deals with the Pakistani Taliban in the past, but none of them have held.

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

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