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December 30, 2011

Afghan President Welcomes US Remarks on Taliban

Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Saturday he welcomed U.S. Vice President Joe Biden's recent remarks that the Taliban in Afghanistan is not America's enemy.

During a speech in Kabul, Mr. Karzai said the Afghan people are very happy about the U.S. announcement, adding "such a message will help the Afghans reach peace and stability."

In a December 19 interview with the U.S. magazine Newsweek, Biden said President Barack Obama has made no statement in any U.S. policy assertions that the Taliban is "our enemy."  The vice president said the insurgent group did not represent a threat to the United States, unless it continued to harbor al-Qaida.

On Tuesday, Karzai said his government would accept the Taliban establishing a liaison office in the Gulf state of Qatar for the purpose of holding peace talks.

U.S. officials have been quoted as saying that the United States is open to negotiating a peace agreement with the Taliban and that a possible deal could include the transfer of Taliban prisoners from the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Meanwhile, NATO-led troops handed over responsibility for security to Afghan forces in three districts in southern Helmand province.  The provincial governor's office said Afghan forces took control of Nad Ali, Nawa and Marja districts late Friday as part of the second wave of security transition.

And NATO said one of its service members died Saturday in a non-battle related incident in southern Afghanistan.  No other details were immediately available.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.